'Humans must learn digital abstinence, to protect ourselves'

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By Chris Harris
'Humans must learn digital abstinence, to protect ourselves'

Children should be taught how to ignore technology to protect them from ever more addictive devices and software, according to an advisor to the Polish president.

Andrzej Zybertowicz, speaking at the European Cybersecurity Forum in Krakow, warned that the dangers of artificial intelligence are not reserved to a future filled with killer robots but are already in evidence as smartphone apps start to take over our lives.

Zybertowicz (pictured above, centre), a social advisor to Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, commenting on what should be done to combat security threats around AI, said: “When we talk about regulations we think are necessary, we should start by regulating our minds.

“We should learn and teach digital abstinence. We should practice this every day and teach it to our children.

“We should get rid of every sort of addictive technology.

“And we should get rid of the myth that artificial intelligence will become dangerous only when it becomes self-conscious and more powerful than all human capacities. It can bring disastrous effects when built on a moderate level.”

Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk says AI – which sees computers perform human tasks such as decision-making – poses the world’s biggest existential threat, while Professor Stephen Hawking believes it could spell the end of the human race.

They fear the machines created to think for themselves would then supercede humans – with disastrous consequences.

However, Zybertowicz points out that AI is already starting to have a major impact on the lives of millions of people.

One study has found people touch their smartphones 2,617 times a day, while another said the devices were distracting minds and damaging users’ cognitive abilities.

Aleksandra Przegalińska-Skierkowska, an expert on AI from Kozminski University, responding to Zybertowicz, said: “We are addictive animals in so many different spheres so technology will be just one of them and I’m quite sure if technology is lacking we will find addiction elsewhere.

“The answer is not to limit technology but to show how to use it well. In that respect, I very much believe in education.

“I recently had a very interesting discussion on hate speech. Hate speech, cyber-bullying and cyber-harassment are really very problematic these days, especially for children and for teenagers who don’t fully understand their situation.

“From a very young age, I would like kids to understand how technology works. If there is hate speech going on online I want classes devoted to hate speech that can explain to children what is really going on in that virtual reality and how they can defend themselves against it.

“We can empower people with skills to understand this technological landscape should not only consist of learning to code but all these other things that allow us to understand the threats and challenges that we face.”