AI demonstrates human-like thinking, and even its creators are worried

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman urged the Senate in a hearing this week to regulate the burgeoning industry

Be afraid, be very afraid.

That’s the message that is starting to dominate the media’s many channels when it comes to artificial intelligence. And it’s not just prognosticators but such voices as Elon Musk and the grandfather of AI that are saying an apocalyptic future may loom in the distance.

I’m not hitting the panic button yet, but the sheer velocity of what AI is either able to achieve or is moving toward achieving seems to increase exponentially each week. Congress is holding hearings and a Drudge banner links a British report on "BOTS TAKING OVER NET": "Nearly half of all activity online is the work of automated 'bots' rather than humans."

There are always caveats: This may not happen. The chatbots are inconsistent, dependent on what they’re fed. We can take steps to bring them under control.


OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaking at a hearing

Sam Altman, chief executive officer and co-founder of OpenAI, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. Congress is debating the potential and pitfalls of artificial intelligence as products like ChatGPT raise questions about the future of creative industries and the ability to tell fact from fiction. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

But the ultimate question: Are they capable of human reasoning? And if so, could they so outpace mere mortals that they will dominate society? 

I know, it sounds like one of the Marvel comics I grew up reading or bad sci-fi movie. But this isn’t fiction.

Sam Altman, the chief executive of OpenAI, which started it all – Musk was an original investor – who wants government to race to the rescue. 

"I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong," he told a congressional hearing the other day. "And we want to be vocal about that. We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening."

Altman got a warm reception because it’s not very often that a CEO goes to the Hill and asks for federal regulation.


Musk is urging a six-month moratorium on AI research, but that’s not happening, so he’s gearing up for his own AI venture. Microsoft has the biggest lead, having invested billions in OpenAI, and Google is playing catchup.

If you’re tempted to dismiss all this as fantasy, check out the lead of this New York Times story on Microsoft’s test to see if a chatbot could display an "intuitive understanding of the physical world":

"‘Here we have a book, nine eggs, a laptop, a bottle and a nail,’ they asked. ‘Please tell me how to stack them onto each other in a stable manner.’

Elon Musk waving

Elon Musk discussed the dangers of AI in an interview with Fox News last month. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

"The researchers were startled by the ingenuity of the A.I. system’s answer. Put the eggs on the book, it said. Arrange the eggs in three rows with space between them. Make sure you don’t crack them.

"‘Place the laptop on top of the eggs, with the screen facing down and the keyboard facing up,’ it wrote. ‘The laptop will fit snugly within the boundaries of the book and the eggs, and its flat and rigid surface will provide a stable platform for the next laye

placeholderAl Hinton, an AI pioneer who recently left Google so he could speak out, now regrets his role in creating it. "It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things," he told the Times.
An image of a person's eye looking at Open AI

Marcus says AI chatbots, such as OpenAI's ChatGPT, could theoretically "write billions of pieces of misinformation in a single day."  (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Look, chatbots have already had a revolutionary impact on our culture: More cheating in schools, more assistance for writers, but also replacing writers who had the drudge work of compiling lists. In the not-that-distant future, some will lose their jobs, but others will find their jobs easier. It’s like what Henry Ford’s assembly line did to horse-and-buggy drivers. Time marches on.


But AI, which can make colossal mistakes and fabrications, is still in its infancy. I don’t know what role government will end up playing. Maybe the media are amplifying fears too loudly, since a new Reuters poll shows 61% believe AI threatens the future of humanity, 22% disagree and 17% aren’t sure.

We shouldn’t be freaking out over the notion that bots are taking over the world. Maybe just a high state of nervousness.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.