Artificial intelligence: “There is an urgent need to prepare children's brains for this technological hybridization”

As part of their work on artificial intelligence, the Senate perspective delegation heard Professor Raphaël Gaillard on 21 March. The psychiatrist and neuroscience researcher presented the results of his research on the subject of the “augmented human”: the hybridization of the human brain with artificial intelligence.

Today, the most impressive example of this augmented human project comes from Elon Musk, the 2016 founder of brain implant startup Neuralink. “Since we will be overtaken by artificial intelligence very quickly, the answer is to be augmented by the same artificial intelligence. If we stick exclusively to the contrast between man and machine, it will overtake us very quickly,” explains Raphaël Gaillard.

“This is not science fiction, not even research, but routine care”

On March 20, Elon Musk presented, through a live broadcast on his social network X (formerly Twitter), the first patient to receive a Neuralink implant. Having become a quadriplegic after an accident, the young American is now able to move a cursor on his computer screen with his thoughts.

Such devices have already been in medicine for several years, particularly to improve the lives of paralyzed patients or those suffering from Parkinson's disease. “This is not science fiction, not even research, but routine care that is carried out today all over the world,” notes Raphaël Gaillard.

For the psychiatrist, a generalization of the hybridization between the human brain and artificial intelligence beyond medicine carries great risks, already observable due to the “weak hybridization” between our brain and our smartphone. “The price we have to pay for this increase in human brain power is that we have to expect an increase in the incidence of mental disorders.” Recent alerts about the deterioration of the mental health of young people, especially 8-12 year olds who had been very little affected by these disorders, already show a worsening of the situation, according to the professor.

“What makes Chat GPT smart is reading”

To “limit the damage” in the face of these transformations of our brains that are already underway, Raphaël Gaillard recommends a simple remedy: reading. “What makes Chat GPT smart is reading. Whether it is artificial intelligence or a child's brain, what matters is that it has been crossed by millions of pages, because this gives its configuration to the neurons, artificial or biological, that will then be able to think,” defends the psychiatrist.

Raphaël Gaillard therefore widely supports the creation of a scientific council for National Education, chaired by a neuroscience expert, led by Jean-Michel Blanquer in 2017. “There is a real approach to bring neuroscience together with National Education, but perhaps with a form of timidity, reticence, which can be explained by the fact that we have to experiment”, laments the professor who believes that this approach will benefit from faster dissemination.

In anticipation of the possible implementation of a new approach to learning to read, Raphaël Gaillard also recommends keeping young people away from new technologies, “not thinking that they are bad, but knowing that “for everything there is a time and you have to come to it at the right moment”. For the psychiatrist, the wider issue of screen time and disconnection should also “stimulate a robust democratic debate”. A call that cannot be ignored by senators, while a column, published a week ago by former Minister of National Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem calling for the restriction of internet use, is causing debate.

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