Do We Really Need Artificial Intelligence???

AI, or Artificial Intelligence, quite frankly scares me.  It scares me in much the same way guns and nukes scare me, for while almost every tool ever invented was developed for a valuable purpose, every single one has also been used by evil people for evil purposes throughout the course of history.  When even the man who has been dubbed the “Godfather of AI,” Geoffrey Hinton, steps down from his lucrative position at Google so he can speak more freely about the potential dangers of advanced artificial intelligence, then yeah, I think we better all be leery.

Almost every tool invented since the beginning of humankind has been developed to fulfill a need, to make life easier or somehow better.  But looking back, every single tool that’s ever been invented by humans has also been used for nefarious purposes at one time or another.  The axe gave man the ability to chop down trees and chop wood for fires on which to cook his food and to keep his family warm.  It was also a tool for murder.  Cars were developed to make it easier for people to travel distances to work or to the market, and yet they have also been used to drive through a crowd of protestors or to run down a person because of the colour of their skin.  The internet?  Well, isn’t it great to be able to access information and stay in touch with loved ones with the click of a button, but how many times has it been used to spread false information or stoke widespread violence, causing far greater harm than could have been done with only a pencil or a telephone?  And the list is endless.  It seems that humankind will always find a way to misuse tools, to use them as implements to do harm rather than good.

Beware the latest technology!

I played around with AI just a bit a while back, found I had no use for it, and put it out of my mind … until recently.  At first, I thought it was a passing phase that people would have fun with for a while, using it to produce “art” and stories.  I worried a bit that journalists might start producing their stories using AI rather than their own skills, or that students would use it to write their term papers rather than actually spending hours at the library doing research, but I didn’t overthink it.  And then, last week I saw the article … a couple of them, actually, about the resignation from Google of Geoffrey Hinton, the “Godfather of AI,” and his reason being that he wanted to be able to speak more freely about his concerns with the rapidly developing technology.  That got my attention.

So, what exactly are Mr. Hinton’s concerns?

“I’m just a scientist who suddenly realized that these things are getting smarter than us,” Hinton tells CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I want to sort of blow the whistle and say we should worry seriously about how we stop these things getting control over us.”

“I have suddenly switched my views on whether these things are going to be more intelligent than us. I think they’re very close to it now and they will be much more intelligent than us in the future,” he tells MIT Technology Review. “How do we survive that?”

Hinton’s immediate concerns are that the internet will soon be flooded with fake text, pictures and videos that regular people won’t be able to distinguish from reality. But eventually, he says this technology could be used by humans to sway public opinion in wars or elections. He believes that A.I. could sidestep its restrictions and begin “manipulating people to do what it wants,” by learning how humans manipulate others.

He is also worried that A.I. technologies will in time upend the job market. Today, chatbots like ChatGPT tend to complement human workers, but they could replace paralegals, personal assistants, translators and others who handle rote tasks. “It takes away the drudge work,” he said. “It might take away more than that.”

This evening, I saw a short interview with Mr. Hinton on PBS that I think highlights some of both the positive and the negative aspects of the future contributions of this new technology.  It’s well worth 8 minutes of your time to watch if you haven’t already seen it.

Time will tell, but all efforts to contain AI, to ensure it is used only for good and not harm, will rely on humans to enact and implement safeguards in the form of laws, and just like regulating guns, I suspect regulating Artificial Intelligence will be determined by $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ rather than by conscience.

49 thoughts on “Do We Really Need Artificial Intelligence???

  1. jill, this is a good post and I share some of the same concerns about artificial intelligence. But remember, people thought that streaming would up-end the music industry, people thought that the VCR would be terrible for television and I’m sure that some people thought that the synthesizer would replace real musicians. All that to say that any time there has been a significant advance in technology, there are always those who view the gloomy side of it, the potential bad instead of the potential tremendous good.
    I had thought about using the voice cloning features of this technology to make it easier and create a beter sounding podcast but then decided against it for two reasons. First, the add voice profile button couldn’t be activated with my screen reader and second, you can still tell the difference between a real person and one generated by AI. the subtle inflections and natural pauses in speech aren’t still fully worked out though I don’t doubt soon, they will be.
    Those are my thoughts and I hope you won’t remove this comment.
    I hope you’re doing well.


  2. I don’t have a use for AI, personally, so didn’t really look much at it until a few weeks ago when discussions like this arose.

    The potential from the advances concerns me, as to people being able to know what’s true and what isn’t. We already have trouble with people believing things because of who’s said them, truth regardless.

    When the pandemic shutdown began, I got caught up on “The Outer Limits,” a TV show I didn’t watch when it was on network. There are a number of eps about AI going wrong, and-in some of those, AI then correcting itself before-causing catastrophe. Yes, it’s a fictional series, but the stories’s moral was that greed destroys, and now here we seem to be, though not yet on the edge of an AI-caused catastrophe. I don’t want to make a judgment based on entertainment, but with what we know about people and greed, well. And it’s the easiest way to explain my unease.

    That’s what I’ve got.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This morning, I heard Eric Topol talking about how much AI can improve medicine. Now I see Hinton speaking about his warning. (I’d read about his reasons for leaving Google, but it’s creepier watching.) You’re certainly right that human advances are inevitably paired with the darker sides. So many worries. Hinton suggests the technology is already beyond human control. I feel the need to hear from others with similar backgrounds, and I sure hope our legislators will reach out to him and a range of others for in-depth explorations about how we–in concert with other democracies–can address these issues.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m not too worried about AI.

    In the early days of AI, some people used to say that it is a problem half solved. They have solved the “artificial” part. And that still seems to be true.

    Yes, these chatbots are impressive. But they have no abilities of their own. They depend on machine learning from what humans say. Eliminate the humans, and there will be nothing from which the chatbots can learn.

    No, they won’t replace us. But they will lead to economic displacement. We have seen such economic displacement with automation, and this is just a new form of automation.

    As with previous automation, the real problem will be human greed. A few wealthy humans will want to benefit from the automation, and will fail to share the gains with the rest of us.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Jill, AI has been with us for awhile, but the growth is exponential. A key fact we need to harp on is the ethics around AI. Again, just because we can does not mean we should. Some of these predictive movies with Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, et al are even scarier now. The problem is the ethical and scientific governance woefully lags the science. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree, but Keith … no matter how stringent the policies for its use are, we both know that someone, somewhere along the line, will find a way of using it for harm rather than good. And it is so powerful, so widespread, that once the monster is out of the box, I fear it could never be put back in. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, I agree. There will always be someone looking to use AI for nefarious or military uses. Yet, there are some positives that it can do helping with medical diagnoses, cleaning areas where nuclear or chemical waste is present, etc. On the flip side, people need to have jobs to provide for a roof and food, so we need to be mindful of the displacement aspect and retrain people who lose their jobs. Keith

        Liked by 2 people

        • I agree! It is a shame to feel that perhaps we must “throw out the baby with the bathwater”, an expression I heard my mother use often when I was growing up, though I wouldn’t fully understand it until I was an adult. There is so much potential good to come from this technology, and yet we must tread so carefully, perhaps even fear it, because … well, human nature.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Good points, PeNdantry! I wasn’t aware that Microsoft had sacked its team dedicated to ethics. Ethics or values seems to be dwindling these days … if you need further proof, look at the U.S. Supreme Court!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I think AI has its potential but the technology is developing far too rapidly while policy is playing catch-up. So I do think it needs to slow down and let us slowpoke humans catch up with it.

    Funnily enough, my work reached out to Mr Hinton last week to ask him if he would do a speaker program for us. Long polite ask. He replied with a simple and curt “no thanks.” 😆 So I joked with my colleague to verify if he really wrote that or if it was AI generated. You just never know these days!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I agree with all you say, but I also think that no matter how good the policies are, someone, somewhere along the line, will turn it into a monster. Sigh. I have very little faith in human nature anymore.

      Wow … that’s surprising! I’ve seen at least two interviews he’s done since leaving Google … you’d think he could have at least given a reason, or said maybe later. Ha ha … that’s true … you never know these days. One of my blogging friends has started using AI to write her posts, and I can tell because they just aren’t her style, her voice … they are too … stilted.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. I think he is rather late with the warning. Apparently FB had two AI chatting with each other about ten years ago and they had to switch them off because they developed their own language and the developers couldn’t figure out what the AI were doing or on about. My brother told me that and he does his research quite well. I never found anything about it on the net but I bet no-one wants that to be known widely. Least of all FB. There is a great speculative fiction trilogy that ponders that problem called Bump Time by Doug J Cooper. Anyone interested in AI and time travel would love that one 🥰 I have to admit I use AI for translating my English texts to German. It’s simply so much faster. This way I only have to edit the funny bits. Apparently, Googles AI hasn’t figured out the intricadies of the German “Du (familiar you) & Sie ( formal you). And all the other cases either. Never mind. I think AI is scarier than Nukes 😎

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Some forms of AI have been around for ages. I remember, in the 70s, playing chess on my computer. The software had the ability to learn.
    When you buy something, (especially on Amazon) the algorithms learn your purchases so they can ‘suggest’ other things for you to buy.
    When you read something on Google, the algorithm learns your interests and pushes other items of the same kind to you.
    I have come across authors who use it for research. But one author of my acquaintance researched herself and found errors, including books she hadn’t written.
    I read a short story written by AI. It was rubbish!
    Now, we are in the early stages of this technology. Some chatbots are good enough to fool people into thinking they are talking to a real person. They will get better.
    Remember, though, that these are just algorithms, written by people. But, like everything, there are some people who will turn it to their advantage. I don’t think there’s a problem that AI will take over and supercede people, just that fraud, scams, false information, etc will become more difficult to spot.
    And we’re doing a pretty good job of creating fascism amongst most of the world all on our own! False information, brainwashing, creating fear so people daren’t speak out, posting evil as good, calling for violence on social media. Maybe we won’t last long enough for AI to be a worry.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. So far, there have been two inventions in the last hundred years or so that have radically changed how we live our lives, the internal combustion engine and the internet. AI will be the third and these changes will come very, very, soon.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Nothing newvhere, really. Someone invents something to help numanity. Humans use it to harm humanity. Science fiction writers warned us of this in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, but no 9ne lustened. The went ahead and invented it anyway. So far, it’s so new it hasn’t damaged us yet! But give it time. It will…

    Liked by 5 people

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