Dan Ariely: Artificial Intelligence can Amplify our Mistakes or Optimize our Behavior

Conversations with Dan Ariely on the future of business decision making: Part 1

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become one of the hottest trends. Some people see it as the wave of the future, some people dismiss it as a gimmick. I spoke with Dan Ariely to get his thoughts on how AI is going to affect decision making.

In this post, he answers the question:

How Do You Feel About the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Irrationality of Decision Making?


There are many ways to apply artificial intelligence. There is a version of artificial intelligence that basically takes what we do and amplifies it to a greater extent.

Let’s consider how people select spouses, invest their money, or chose what to eat. We can create artificial intelligence to recommend answers faster, better, and in an easier way.

In that version of artificial intelligence, our mistakes will be accentuated.

Let me explain...

When people go online, they look for dating partners who are attractive. They don’t think about other aspects of compatibility.

If an artificial intelligence system is based on reinforcement learning, we’d learned the wrong lesson.

A similar thing would happen if you created a system that basically takes your email, looks at the email that you responded to quicker, and helps your respond even quicker to it. But that might not be the most important email. It just might be the email that is easiest to respond to.

This version of artificial intelligence is going to amplify our mistakes.

There is another version of artificial intelligence that goes beyond learning from what we are doing. This better version of artificial intelligence has an object function that optimizes information and creates a system that can help us.

Then there is the other question of irrationality.

There are some irrationalities that are personally destructive such as overeating, not getting enough sleep or lack of exercise.

There are other irrationalities from an economic aspect that are actually quite beautiful. We help other people. We have the capacity for love and caring. We tip people. We vote. These behaviors maybe be irrational in the pure economic sense, but they are beautiful.

We have to think about what system we want to create. Do we want to create a system that is cold and logical, where everyone is like Spock from Star Trek? Or do we want to take the beautiful part of human irrationality and let it flourish?

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