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  • Writer's pictureKlaus Luehning

#34 | ARISTOTLE'S LEGACY IN THE ERA OF AI: A Reassessment of Expertise & Experience

TAKEAWAYS:

  1. Experiential Learning vs. AI: Klaus illustrates the value of hands-on learning through Aristotle's teaching methods, emphasizing the depth of understanding it brings, in contrast to the superficial knowledge often acquired from AI platforms.

  2. Questioning AI-Assisted Expertise: Klaus critiques the reliance on AI for quick answers and content creation, arguing that true expertise requires the rigorous, time-intensive process symbolized by the traditional 10,000-hour rule.

  3. Potential for Shallow Understanding: Klaus warns of the dangers of cognitive indolence, suggesting that overdependence on AI and existing knowledge could lead to a lack of genuine creativity and a shallow grasp of reality among future generations.


As AI becomes more common, there's a noticeable shift towards what can be termed cognitive indolence, where people let technology do the thinking for them.


There is always the Aristotelian method of asking questions in classical studies and investigations in education. On the Island of Lesbos, Aristotle, banished from Athens, continued his Academy. It is recorded that under a tree next to an inlet of seawater, he asked the question, “Is a sponge an animal or a plant?”.


The assembled students pondered the question, and their eyes went up, indicating thought. Aristotle then instructed one or more students to physically examine a sponge in the water. Through direct observation, they concluded that a sponge is an animal because it feeds and excretes. This lesson illustrates that understanding often requires more than theoretical contemplation; direct interaction with the subject matter is sometimes necessary.


It is reported that becoming an expert in a skill requires 10,000 hours of practice. This equates to 8 hours a day for five years. Most apprenticeships may even last longer to achieve Master levels of competence. In contrast, consider the world we are probably in already, where all one needs is to ask Alexa or use an AI platform to get an answer, create a term paper, compose a song, or write a book about ancient human civilizations. The results are available instantly, with minimal effort.


However, how is a person, initially ignorant, now armed with a tome of information and possibly not having read the manuscript, to be considered an expert? What value does that person have other than using a keyboard and formulating a query for which they contribute only the qualifying question mark? Such individuals are continuously using the accumulated information and experience of millions to become informed and pass on their knowledge through media or by leaving behind experiential artifacts. Thus, the crafting of new information, based on the past, is limited to what has already been known and lacks the innovative mixing of ideas that leads to new insights.


Education is a painful experience, subjecting innocents to new, strange, and inexplicable amounts of information to instill a semblance of competence in adjusting to and contributing to the activities of an evolving civilization. The ability to circumvent the pain of learning, erase many doubts, and rely on the skill levels of others does not bode well for a class of people who only know the past and cannot competently adjust to the future. A superficial understanding can create a vacuous grasp of reality. What is the essence of the current crop of youngsters who answer a question with, “Whatever!”? Sidestepping the void in understanding does not contribute to developing anything.

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