in Columns

The Special Feature 4/2023 Editorial: What should we discuss when addressing artificial intelligence?

by Lasse Lehtonen

"We should be talking much more about how AI affects our capabilities in critical thinking (or thinking in general) and how we are able to assess whether the information surrounding us is true or false", writes Lasse Lehtonen.

Since this special issue focuses on artificial intelligence, it seems appropriate to start with a disclaimer that may well become customary in the near future: the present text has been written by a human being.  

Or has it? You may choose to believe or to disbelieve me, but how can you know for sure? In a growing number of contexts, most of us have no way of distinguishing between written – and, increasingly, audiovisual – materials created by a human on the one hand and artificial intelligence on the other. Unsurprisingly, opinions about AI and its influence vary notably, ranging from enthusiasm and joy to doubt and fear.  

At the same time, it is relevant to ask why we tend to make such comparisons in the first place. After all, we are dealing with two fundamentally different entities: a living, conscious being and a mathematical construction with no consciousness. Comparing the two – as common and natural an approach as it may first seem – easily leads to a distorted understanding of how AI is impacting and can impact the human world. Such a perspective usually regards the development of AI as a linear, evolutionary process, tending to focus on AI as a threat instead of elaborating on how it could serve humanity – something that technological advancements have been doing for thousands of years.   

Even more importantly, we should be talking much more about how AI affects our capabilities in critical thinking (or thinking in general) and how we are able to assess whether information surrounding us is true or false. This is a broad, universal topic that applies to far more than just AI, but perhaps the rise of AI can help to foreground these important questions in a society that largely relies on written and audiovisual information.   

Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that this text was indeed written by AI, following my prompts. Which one of us should be credited as the author? Only me? The AI? Both? Or all the human writers whose work was leveraged as a reference without which the AI would have been unable to generate the text in the first place? These are questions that should be assessed by human beings; and such an assessment can only be conducted provided that we understand the fundamental differences between humans and AI.   

In order to contribute to this understanding, the present special issue of FMQ addresses the implications that artificial intelligence carries for music both today and in the future. The writings in this issue demonstrate the complexity of this topic – a complexity where critical thinking becomes crucial for practitioners, audiences, and facilitators alike. While artificial intelligence may possess qualities that could discourage critical thinking in society, it could ideally serve the opposite purpose by showcasing the significance of intellectual capabilities in a landscape where human creativity and thinking are being redefined and renegotiated. It is in this context that we might even discover new perspectives to human creativity.  

Featured picture created with DALL·E 2.