, 05.01.2023 04:45 PM

My latest: SkyNet is active

Artificial intelligence is a benign kind of description, isn’t it? Doesn’t sound demonic at all.

So too its acronym, AI. We hear and see “AI” all the time, these days. It’s so ubiquitous, so commonplace, it just makes people shrug, now.

For an entire generation, all of us have been carrying around little machines — iPhones, whatever — that operate on the same principle as AI. In basic terms, they benignly collect information from us when we interact with them.

Except AI takes that a step further, a big step. Artificial Intelligence takes the information it collects on us to actually mimic us. To learn, to plan, to reason, to problem-solve. To, as the Oxford Dictionary people put it, “develop computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require humans.”

If that sounds to you like “machines replacing humans,” you’re right. It is. AI is about replacing humans — computer people (coders, programmers, software engineers, data analysts), media people (in advertising, content creation, technical writing, journalism), legal people (paralegals, legal assistants to start, lawyers later), people who create (artists, writers, musicians). And, of course, people who teach, people in finance and accounting, people who deal with the public.

People: if you are on the above list, AI can do what you do, but better and faster and cheaper. And, the now-anxious AI experts say, it’s not a case of you losing your job or vocation to AI, maybe.

You will.

Not surprisingly, the usual arguments in favour of this radical change are being trotted out to justify the expansion and use of AI. Efficiency, prosperity, competitiveness, productivity — and, of course, those hoary old chestnuts, “eliminating duplication” and “freeing up your time to let you do what you love.”

Except, what if what we love is what we already do?

Well, get ready. It won’t be SkyNet, as in the Terminator movie series, which foretold a world being enslaved by AI-enabled death machines. No, it’ll arguably be qualitatively worse, because it’s arriving on tiny feet.

Is it too late? Well, AI is already metastasizing at a speed that cannot (ironically) be put into words. So say the people who used to advocate for it.

Dr. Geoffrey Hinton is one. Hinton, along with two graduate students, has been working on developing Artificial Intelligence for more than two decades. At the University of Toronto, the trio essentially created what the New York Times called “the intellectual foundation for AI systems.”

Except now Dr. Hinton — who quit his job at Google so he could speak out — is saying: stop.

AI is already being used for misinformation, and soon it will be a real risk to humans with jobs. Eventually, the New York Times’ report soberly notes, “it could be a risk to humanity.”

Said Dr. Hinton to the Times: “It is hard to see how you can prevent the bad actors from using it for bad things.” For starters, he says, AI will be used to flood the Internet with faked photos, videos and information: “(We will) not be able to know what is true anymore.”

And, inevitably, people will get replaced. Sure, at the outset, menial tasks — the drudge work — will be taken over by AI. But eventually, Hinton says, “it might take away more than that.”

Can anything stop it, or even slow it down? Not at the moment. Right now, Google and Microsoft, who are more wealthy and more powerful than most nations, are in a type of arms race to perfect AI first. Scientists (Elon Musk among them, interestingly) have signed open letters warning of the risks. But few are listening.

We need to. AI isn’t just coming, it’s here. And we need to get ready.

As Musk, no less, says: “With artificial intelligence, we’re summoning the demon.”


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    Martin Dixon says:

    Why we used AI as the theme of my annual AF joke. Other than 4 actors, the voices are AI generated:


    One of my partners is using some sort of AI software to write his tax memos. What could possibly go wrong?

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    They won’t ever get that genie back in the bottle. It’s all downhill from here. Lucky us.

    Just wait until it teaches itself to “resist” the instructions of foolish humans. This makes North Korean nukes look good…

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    Sean says:

    It will change the work world, but I think it will be in a similar way that the internet changed journalism. Jobs were wiped out for sure. Big outlets knocked down on their knees… but they still exist. If I want to know the latest about hockey celebrations in Toronto, you can’t beat social media. To understand my investment portfolio – Globe and Mail thank you very much.

    AI will cause similar disruptions. Menial customer service will be obliterated for sure. But serious stuff? No.

    Reception at the hospital? Computer will do fine. Explaining the pain in my abdomen? Human doctor please.

    Same with law. Want to fight about your taxes? Robot thank you very much. Your boss is sexually harassing you? Human lawyer and yes, you will be willing to pay for that.

    Even businesses like Warren’s will survive I think. Why? Because the only thing that proves you are a good consultant is that other humans said you are. That’s it. That’s all.

    My last thought – from now until the end of time – humans will be willing to pay for the enjoyment of unpredictable social interaction. If you think I’m wrong about that, check out Stub Hub ticket prices for the next Leaf’s game.

    No computer can recreate our feelings about Sydney’s golden goal… Donavan Bailey’s 9.8 seconds….or how you felt when you saw your favorite band on stage for the first time, or your first date. Only humans can do that and we will never lose that.

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      Warren says:

      Disagree. In my line of work, AI will (and has already started to) eliminate pollsters, data analysts and those who do creative. Speech writers should be nervous.

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        Sean says:

        It’s funny… all day today I was looking at the people working around me and thinking… gone… gone… gone… and then pondered my own job and immediately concluded that *I’m not replaceable because I need to understand the people around me* in a way a computer just cant… BUT – if all the people around me were replaced with AI, my job could easily be done by a AI. I fear that Warren is right… maybe we are all doomed.

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    Robert White says:

    Machine Learning via AI is a natural outgrowth of Engineering proper. Like everything else in engineering it’s dangerous as heck if not used properly.

    I don’t read science fiction so I can avoid the nightmares.

    AI & Machine Learning can’t differentiate between what is morally good and what is morally bad for mankind.

    Engineering can’t be trusted to determine morality or conscience let alone consciousness.

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    Pipes says:

    The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Stephen Hawkins

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    Gilbert says:

    With increasing AI, fewer humans will be needed for many jobs today. Many people believe the world is overpopulated and want to reduce the world population.

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    Curious V says:

    How will professors ensure students are writing their papers?

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      Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Curious V,

      Paper mills have been around for at least twenty years. Apparently, the end product is easy enough to spot.

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        Sean says:

        I think you guys are missing the bigger picture… No one will care if the students write their own papers… because… there won’t be any professors.

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    EsterHazyWasALoser says:

    Sounds like maybe we should re-watch Spielberg’s “A.I.” (or maybe the animated film “9′) for a glimpse of what is in store.

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      Andy Kaut says:

      No need to. Read “Player Piano” by vonnegut. It’s where we are headed. All engineers, managers, menial labour or army.

      Or Luddites. 😉

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        EsterHazyWasALoser says:

        Oy vey!

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    Curious V says:

    I used to drywall, so I learned how to thumb screws – so you take a handful of screws and thumb them to your drill to facilitate speed – then one day they show up with Hilti screws in a plastic cartridge that self feed to the drill, essentially eliminating the need to thumb screws, and making the skill useless. It’s going to happen to highly paid professionals in the near future. Doctors, writers, lawyers replaced by AI – that’s the future

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