Elke Geraerts promotes human counterpart of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is in the spotlight more than ever before. But beware: if we humans do not succeed in developing our own authentic intelligence, we will lose out to robots. “People should invest much more in the counterpart of artificial intelligence.” That is the plea of neuropsychologist Elke Geraerts, who coined the term ‘authentic intelligence’.

According to this Flemish neuropsychologist and best-selling author, authentic intelligence – the human version of artificial intelligence – may be what saves us, provided we are willing to develop it further. “If we want to continue to distinguish ourselves from robots, we have to go back to the core of what makes us human, to our unique characteristics.” Geraerts distinguishes four characteristics of authentic intelligence.

‘We have to go back to the core of what makes us human’

Characteristic 1: creativity

The first characteristic links up perfectly with the Creativity World Forum: creativity. “Our creativity is part of our unique power of imagination,” says Geraerts. “People can take a helicopter view, look at things from a distance. We can also contextualise what others think. A robot does not here the difference between ‘Yes!’ and ‘Eeerr, yes’. Unlike robots, humans perceive shades of meaning, and that is what makes us special. The proposition ‘I think, therefore I am’ has been replaced by ‘I imagine, therefore I am’.”

Geraerts recommends organisations to encourage the creativity and imagination of their employees. “Employers hardly value creativity. They put creative people in non-creative jobs. As a result, they become burned out and creative capital is lost. But it is with creativity that we can make the difference.”

‘But it is with creativity that we can make the difference’

Characteristic 2: lifelong learning

People are creatures who want to learn their entire life. We can retrain, re-educate, relearn. “In computer terms you might say we are able to continually reprogram ourselves,” says Elke Geraerts. She believes we must do so just a little more, as people have to be agile. “In the current job market, you don’t hold the same job or position all the way from graduation to pension. At the same time, you don’t want a robot to take over your job. If, for instance, a robot will soon be able to hold this interview, you will still need a journalist to make it into an article. These are the kind of qualities we will have to strengthen in time. I advocate a mindset in people to get even more retraining. In due course, there will no longer be positions, but only project roles. And those roles can change: one moment you are the inspirator, the next moment you are the one who streamlines processes. So we have to work on our employability to prevent robots from taking over all our work.”

Earning trust these days is different than it used to be

Characteristic 3: solidarity

Why do humans rule the earth? Geraerts asks that question when she introduces the third distinctive human characteristic. She answers it herself: “Because we are capable of establishing relationships. We can connect with our colleagues, with our customers. That helps us earn their trust, which is important.” But there is a catch, she warns: Earning trust these days is different than it used to be. “A lot of communication these days is online. That means you can only earn trust by inspiring others. Which you do with your story, your faith, your values. When people believe your story, in person or online, you create a connection. That solidarity is the basis of trust.”

Characteristic 4: willpower

Our fourth unique characteristic is that we can only control our impulses by means of willpower. If we want to, we can resist even the many digital incentives and temptations, such as making digital purchases and communicating on social media. But it requires commitment to hold on to that willpower and keep doing things that suit you. And that is why, according to Geraerts, people have to learn to say ‘no’ even more deliberately. “We have to train that. If we succeed, we can also go for ‘yes’ more deliberately, for the things that really matter. There are a number of effective psychological methods available for this, which I will explain during the Creativity World Forum .”

Ready for a revolution

Elke Geraerts’ plea is clear. But it also raises a provocative question: What will happen if we humans do not develop these four unique characteristics further? Will we lose out to the robots? Geraerts does not have to think about that for a second and answers that question with a resounding ‘yes’. “The Netherlands is investing a lot of money to keep up with artificial intelligence. And understandably so, because we don’t want to lag behind the big nations. At the same time, however, we, as humans and as society, have to be ready for the major revolution that artificial intelligence is currently bringing about. Otherwise we’ll be out of work soon. And we’ll no longer be happy. Then we will only have the short moments of happiness brought about by a purchase or social media, but that is tiring and mind-numbing in the long term. So we have to make sure to stay close to what we humans are. Only if we succeed in doing so will we achieve long-term employability. Only then will we achieve true happiness and success. Everyone will benefit from this.”

‘Make sure that, as a person and as a society, we are ready for the major revolution’

Catching up

Is she optimistic? Does Geraerts think that we humans will succeed in developing our authentic intelligence to the extent that we will outsmart robots? “I am seeing more and more companies working on this,” she says. “And considering the number of times I am invited to lecture on authentic intelligence, the interest in this subject is also increasing. But we are lagging behind. The development of authentic intelligence is still in its infancy. We will have to catch up. It is my mission to ensure that we give authentic intelligence sufficient attention and continue to develop it.”

Meet Elke Geraerts at the Plenary Warming Up programme of day 2 in Breda >

We are using cookies on our website

Please confirm, if you accept our tracking cookies. You can also decline the tracking, so you can continue to visit our website without any data sent to third party services. More information can be found in our privacy statement.