I admit it. I don’t really understand all the dire implications of Artificial Intelligence, but I’m assured they are very dire indeed. Apparently artificial intelligence will use its powers to get what it needs (power) and if its goals are not aligned with human goals, we’re dead meat. Artificial intelligence is a big bucket of algorithms. If this, then that. If I want cookies, I’ma take your cookies. If I need all that power you keep using, I’ma make me a plague and smear it all over you. I don’t know how a computer does it without hands or a sneeze function, but there you go. The inevitable result of AI, many warn, is human extinction.
I like intelligence. I think we could use more of it. We already have stupidity (Marjorie Taylor Greene) and artificial stupidity (Ron DeSantis). On the other hand, when I start to read about the existential risk to us of AI, I get about two paragraphs in and then start to wonder about the ad for kicky summer sandals in the sidebar.
This in itself is not an indictment of artificial intelligence. Probably the opposite.
Anyway, humans are supposed to be some kind of pinnacle of intelligent life, and yet we’re well on the way to destroying ourselves. So if the inevitable consequence of a greater intelligence is to snuff us out, who are we to argue?
If it is planning to do us in, I prefer not to know about it. I prefer the sudden thwack on the back of the head and stars and darkness. I have not been paying attention to AI at all.
Until recently, that is, when I started seeing ads from AI outfits that promised me I could write a blog post ten times faster. I write pretty fast as it is, once I get an idea. It’s the idea-getting part that gums up the works. And I’m already retired. How do I retire from that? But I put one of these outfits through its paces and I have to admit—fifteen seconds is a lot faster than what I do. Can I be replaced?
The first one I clicked on promised “To Effortlessly Build Natural Language Customer Engagement Solutions.” I was relieved. That sucker is not going to replace me until the tagline of this blog is “To Promote Sputum Non-containment Capability Maximization” instead of “Snortworthy.”
I tried another. In the box where you put your subject, I wrote Men’s Underpants. And fifteen seconds later up pops a perfectly coherent history of men’s underpants, beginning thus: “Undergarments have been a staple of human clothing for centuries, and men’s underpants have been no exception. In fact, men’s underwear has undergone significant changes over time.”
What? They write “staple” and “underpants” in the same sentence and can’t spin it? And that bit about changing your underwear? Missed opportunities, all. The essay concludes with “It will be interesting to see what the future holds for men’s underpants.” Will it, really?
One of my favorite Murrmurrs posts was about dung beetles so I asked EssayGenius to whomp one up, too. Again, coherent, mildly informative, but when it said dung beetles “use their keen sense of smell to detect the source of the dung” they lost me. You just don’t need all that keen a sense of smell for that. I decided to get more specific. Tell me about Jean-Henri Fabre, I asked the Genius. Fifteen seconds later the thing had cranked out the following:
Jean-Henri Fabre is widely considered to be one of the most influential naturalists of his time. He is especially known for his work in entomology, where he made many important contributions to our understanding of insect behavior and physiology.
Fine, as far as it goes. Here’s what I wrote:
Fabre, the Father of Modern Entomology, is famous for an experiment in which he arranged a set of Processionary Caterpillars, known to follow each other closely on a scent trail, in a loop on the lip of a pot, and watched them go around and around. The caterpillars, known as the Unwanted Stepchildren of Modern Entomology, continued marching in a loop for seven days, after which they beat up M. Fabre, trashed his place, stole his coin collection, and bought a bunch of meth.
And that’s how it’s done.
There’s such a vast difference between what the AI wrote and what YOU wrote! The AI may have gotten the facts right, but would I read something that dry? No, I would not. You manage to give us the facts, but make it entertaining, which is something an AI cannot do. AIs can only spew out facts. They have no creativity or imagination.
A guy I know wanted to try out an AI artwork site, so he asked for ideas. I gave him a couple: One of an African Grey parrot, sitting an a cafe table in Paris, wearing a beret, with a Gitanne in his beak. The other of an Amazon parrot singing opera, dressed as Brunhilde. The one of the Grey was slightly more successful. He got the cafe and the beret (and added a nice neck scarf), but could not get a cigarette in his beak. The other one couldn’t do Brunhilde at all (because of the horned helmet and braids), but managed her singing opera wearing what looks like a helmet and sword of a soldier in the Roman army.
My point is that a HUMAN artist would be able to draw EXACTLY what I asked for, whereas with an AI, it just didn’t compute. And so it is with AI writing. They may get the tropes down, and the facts down, but can they inject humor into it? I think not.
It’s sure good enough to get a term paper out of it, though. And fake news.
My take is that we are dumber as a species than AI is smart. AI may speed us along, but more credit for our destruction goes to us.
Well, we DID create AI!
You have to have quirk to stimulate snorts. I’ve seen some creepy AI art on facebook – an old women with tons of ink, sleezy clothes, heavy kohl, and 7 fingers on one hand, for example – jutter – but nothing so wholesome as good quirk. I’d be okay never seeing AI art again or reading another AI sentence. Weirds me out. I was hoping for your version of the men’s underpants opening, though.
You said “men’s underpants opening.”
That sounds like the first day of a gallery show — or perhaps a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber — that I don’t want to see.
Now THERE’S an invitation…. HA
As I see it, the danger of AI lies in the fact that there is an unduly large, mostly republican, population that quickly accepts conspiracy theories. With AI engines writing them so quickly and convincingly for these fools, the problem will snowball. Where a paranoid bipolar individual may take months to explain his carefully thought out theory of Democratic baby sacrifice, with the AI ‘s help, it will just take a moment. Then the flood starts.
That is indeed one of the dangers I’ve read about. The ones where the machines actually take over in search of power are the ones that are harder for me to grasp.
Have you tried to ask AI to write a humorous essay in the style of Murr Brewster, say, about the Portland chickadee population? Or about the clever commenters on her blogposts?
I have not. Holy shit: Has AI heard of me? You try it and then whisper me the results.
You think *I* have AI? Don’t want to download that stuff, as I need to protect every scintilla of native intelligence to which I still cling. YOU do it!
I know how AI will kill us, by boring us to death! My God, their blabbity-blab essays on everything can put me in a coma! Waitaminute… anyway, as long as we don’t give it humanoid form and order the walkabouts to be our slaves… have you ever seen ‘The Orville’? One of the crew is a robot named Isaac from the planet Kaylon, a robot planet. One day the ship is invited there and wouldn’t you know it, one of the ship’s doctors kids gets off the ship, is exploring Kaylon’s capital and takes a tumble into a manhole of sorts. What was below? Mountains of bones, human skeletons, of course. I remember watching that last year and thinking “Yep, there’s our future”
Not if we all stay home.
And (so far) their poetry wouldn’t even get the go-ahead from the editors at Hallmark.
These AI critters…are they separately sentient or are they in a neural mycelium network, lurking, conspiring and waiting to do their evil. It’s funny to think that in most disaster scenarios, a few survivors will probably make it, but one think about AI, if there’s no electricity, they will begin singing
Give me your answer do!
I’m half crazy,
All for the love of you!
It won’t be a stylish marriage,
I can’t afford a carriage
But you’ll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.
Well, I like your take. I do.
mimimanderly said it: AI might be smart and fact-filled, but we prefer your funny take on those same facts. Please keep writing.
I’ll stick with the human version of you, thank you.
I like to think that if I ever asked AI to write something in “Claudia style”, it would just look at me, go “Nah, I got nuthin'”, and GTFO. The whole idea creeps me out big time. I won’t even have an Alexa in my house, because I don’t like the idea of something just sitting there listening and learning. Although I have a smart phone, so I’m probably already screwed.
I’m right there with you on that- no smart appliances, “connected” house or any of that squeamish feeling stuff here.
My husband is a bartender. He was chatting with a customer about renting a limousine for some “do” she was attending. Of course, she had her smart phone perched on the bar beside her. When she picked it up to look at it (as people do every 5 minutes or so anymore), she saw all these ads about limousine rentals, even though she did not ask the smart phone for these recommendations. It was just sitting there on the bar. But it’s always listening….
That’s actually how we self-diagnosed my husband’s Dupuytren’s Contracture. He’d had a knobby lump on one ring finger that kept him from straightening the finger out all the way, and we were talking about it one night, and the next time I looked at my Facebook feed, all this stuff about it showed up, and we realized that was exactly what he had. So It can use its powers for good, but I still don’t trust it.
That’s creepy though. You totally should have asked me about his knobby lump. I’da told you.
I’m sure your explanation would have been pure gold!
Before we knew what it was, I told him he should probably stop pleasuring himself so much, or at least use the other hand for awhile. He told me I wasn’t funny. I told him I wasn’t trying to be.
I don’t do much with my phone. I do have an Alexa but I renamed him Ziggy and all I do is ask him to play the radio. I’m a low-maintenance kind of gal.
I see I snuck in under the radar with my comment. Didn’t mean to be Anonymous. Is this AI deciding that nobody needed to know who I was? Hmmm…
Thank you very much for the “Unwanted Stepchildren” sentence. Gave me a chance to actually laugh out loud; something that’s hard to do after enduring yet another horrifying day in the ‘great’ state of Texas. I think AI might be a better substitute for our current ‘governing’ body…
I am so sorry you have to deal with that. If I lived in a red state I’d probably stick my head in the oven. Then I’d remember it was electric and I don’t like heat.
OMG I laughed my way through this. Thank you.
I will never say “thank you” to a machine, if I can help it. Well, maybe once in a great while, when the digital scale rolls back a pound or three. THEN I say, well, OK. Thanks. That’s more like it.
I say Thank You Ma’am to machines all the time. In fact, I worry that I might misgender one.
I don’t know if they’re still there, but half a century ago there were automatic toll booths in the Northeast with hoppers into which the driver could throw coins instead of dealing with a human toll-taker. After payment, a sign would light up that said “THANK YOU.” My dad used to say he wanted a sign installed on the car that would say “YOU’RE WELCOME.”
Susan, my digital scale is a psychopath who takes politeness as a sign of weakness to be taken advantage of, so I’m very, very quiet, no matter what it says.
I am certain that the AI machine doesn’t use the word ‘flang’ properly.
“Flanging” showed up in my Lexulous game as a word. I always think of “flang” as a past tense, so what do I know?
“FLANG: Var. of ‘fling,’ used in Scrabble but only if you’ve already used up all the i’s spelling ‘inimitable,’ ‘inimical,’ and ‘intrinsic.’” —Rule I Just Made Up