Will AI Make us Dumber?

Jeff’s Random Words

I was texting with a friend last week about artificial intelligence (AI). Specifically, we were discussing its usefulness for people interested in investing. I’ve only dabbled in using AI in my own investing process and I can certainly see some use cases. However, during our conversation, my friend said something profound:

“I think it’s a trap that’ll make people dumber”

Now, I’m taking that one line out of context and it was part of a larger conversation about AI. Not that you know who this mystery friend is, but neither of us was totally in favor of, or totally against asking ChatGPT or other large language models for help with our investing.

The reason this particular fragment of the conversation stuck out to me is that it immediately reminded me of how I have learned as much as I have over the last four years. It’s largely been from coming across a term or explanation I didn’t understand and then finding more information about it in order to understand.

Here’s a quick example. One day, a few years ago, I decided I was going to go through a Bank of America (BAC) earnings report and take very detailed notes on almost every single sentence in the report. It took me hours, but I probably learned more about banks and bank stocks that day than I have in every day since combined. Essentially, I did all the hard work and I had to think and spend time. But I learned a lot.

I think this was my friend’s point. Had I tried this exercise a year or two later, I may have simply asked ChatGPT for a summary of the earnings. I could have even asked for all the definitions I didn’t understand. But something tells me it wouldn’t have been as helpful, or that I wouldn’t have learned the content as deeply. 

Don’t get me wrong, I do think these large language models are really impressive and can absolutely be an asset and a time saver. But I also think it's up to the user to ensure the tasks that help us learn better are still being left up to our human brains. 

That’s the challenge. Every technological tool we’ve ever had has been used for good reasons and less good reasons and AI will be no different. I just hope that newer investors still spend the time thinking, learning, and asking questions because I think that’s the way to gain knowledge and a competitive advantage. 

Saving time and being efficient is great, but the resulting cut corners could also make us dumber. I think this is worth considering.


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