Pros and cons of artificial intelligence

Published 6:27 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2023

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It seems everywhere I look these days I am seeing articles about the potential, and palpable fear, of Artificial Intelligence. Everyone, from Elon Musk (yeah, I know) to the former ‘Godfather of AI Technology’ at Google, Geoffrey Hinton, who recently resigned in order to “speak freely” and publicly warn what he feels to be the danger that lies ahead for the world.

Good morning! How are ya? Eat some fruit, it’ll help your digestion as you read further.

Hinton, by the way, has expressed remorse over his work yet consoles himself by saying that had he not developed the technology “someone else would have.”  

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Now, you and I and everyone else that reads this column have already experienced and used, often with little thought, artificial intelligence in our everyday lives: we use the self-scanners at the grocery store, we pump our own gas and on my recent trip abroad, no longer are there human beings to take your passport and ask you a few, curt questions, but rather, my face was scanned for facial recognition to see if it matched my scanned passport photo. That was it for customs. No wait whatsoever. Convenient? You bet! Scary? Oh, heck yeah.

In various interviews, Mr. Hinton has expressed concerns about the potential of AI to eliminate jobs (already it’s been reported to expect a loss of 85 million jobs around the world in the next 5-10 years as everything from waitresses, post office employees and even accountants will be phased out). And quite like the film, ’The Matrix,’ Hinton warns of a world that many “will not be able to know what is true anymore.” Because, Hinton explains, the capacity of AI to create convincing false images and texts.

“It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things.”

His biggest surprise was the speed of AI advancement, which is far beyond what he and other developers had anticipated.

“The idea that this stuff could actually get smarter than people— a few people believed that,” Hinton said. “But most people thought it was a long way off. And I thought it was a long way off. I thought it was 30 to 50 years or even longer away. Obviously, I no longer think that.”

Clearly, there could be massively helpful uses as well. But I did experience a chill up my spine when I read that researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have now created an AI system that is capable of taking images from a person’s brain activity and translating them to, as described by New Atlas, “a continuous stream of text.” Called a semantic decoder, the system may help people who are conscious but unable to speak, such as stroke patients. This potential is wonderful. But it takes very little imagination to wonder not if, but when, such technology could be used for interrogation, just for starters.

Then there is Dr. Pratik Desai, who has founded multiple Silicon Valley AI start-up companies and is urging people to record their elderly relatives as soon as possible as he—buckle your seatbelts for this—predicts human consciousness could be uploaded onto a computer this year. THIS year.

I’ll let you read his latest tweet: ‘Start recording your parents, elders and loved ones. With enough transcript data, new voice synthesis and video models there is a 100% chance that they will live with you forever after leaving their physical body.’

In a nutshell, you would feed as many videos and photos of Mee-maw, as well as audio recordings that would be fed into an AI system that then learns everything about her. Users then can create an avatar that looks and behaves exactly the way she did. You would have a Virtual Reality of Mee-maw to visit whenever you wanted to get that coconut cake recipe or ask if you’re being unreasonable in feeling annoyed that Carl threw out the last 6-pack of Bud Light. 

It’s already happening with a project called Live Forever. As founder Artur Sychov explained, “We can take this data and apply AI to it and recreate you as an avatar on your land parcel or inside your NFT world, and people will be able to come and talk to you. You will meet the person. And you would maybe for the first 10 minutes while talking to that person, you would not know that it’s actually AI. That’s the goal.”

Maybe for you, Artur. For me, that’s the nightmare…