Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

The Editorial's take on the enigma of AI: the ever-changing definition of humanity remains elusive.

The Editorial’s take on the enigma of AI: the ever-changing definition of humanity remains elusive.

Intelligent machines have been serving and enslaving people in the realm of the imagination for decades. The all-knowing computer – sometimes benign, usually malevolent – was a staple of the science fiction genre long before any such entity was feasible in the real world. That moment may now be approaching faster than societies can draft appropriate rules. In 2023, the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) came to the attention of a wide audience well beyond tech circles, thanks largely to ChatGPT (which launched in November 2022) and similar products.

Given how rapidly progress in the field is advancing, that fascination is sure to accelerate in 2024, coupled with alarm at some of the more apocalyptic scenarios possible if the technology is not adequately regulated. The nearest historical parallel is humankind’s acquisition of nuclear power. The challenge posed by AI is arguably greater. To get from a theoretical understanding of how to split the atom to the assembly of a reactor or bomb is hard and expensive. Malicious applications of code online can be transmitted and replicated with viral efficiency.

The potential worst-case scenario, where human civilization unintentionally becomes obsolete and collapses due to programming errors, may seem like something out of a science fiction story. However, even the small chance of such a catastrophe must be considered seriously. Additionally, there is a real risk of more commonplace harms caused by the use of AI in automated systems for public and private services. This can lead to perpetuating and magnifying biases based on race and gender. For instance, an “intelligent” system trained on data that reflects the cultural and scientific dominance of white men over centuries may make medical diagnoses or evaluate job applications based on prejudiced criteria.

This is the less flashy aspect of worrying about artificial intelligence, which may explain why it receives less political attention compared to dramatic ideas of robot rebellion. However, it is also the most pressing responsibility for regulators. While there is a potential risk of underestimating the capabilities of AI in the medium and long term, in the short term, the opposite issue of being overly impressed by the technology can hinder timely action. The current systems being implemented in various fields, producing beneficial scientific findings and manipulative deepfake political messages, utilize intricate coding but are not conceptually incomprehensible.

Organic nature
Large language model technology works by absorbing and processing vast data sets (much of it scraped from the internet without permission from the original content producers) and generating solutions to problems at astonishing speed. The end result resembles human intelligence but is, in reality, a brilliantly plausible synthetic product. It has almost nothing in common with the subjective human experience of cognition and consciousness.

Certain neuroscientists make a valid argument that due to the biological makeup of the human brain and our reliance on biochemical processes to perceive the world, our experience will always be fundamentally distinct from that of a machine’s simulation of the external world. Therefore, the two will never be able to merge or become one in the same.

It is possible for robots to surpass humans in performing complex tasks, as we can already see happening. However, this does not mean that the fundamental qualities of being human can be replaced by AI. This is not just a theoretical concept, as it is important to understand human control and how it may change in order to handle the societal and regulatory effects of ever-advancing intelligent machines.

We may often be fascinated by what an AI program can do, but we must remember that it is ultimately following instructions created by a human. While the speed of data processing is impressive, it is the creativity and imagination of the human mind that drives the incredible feats of computational power. The responses provided by ChatGPT to difficult questions are impressive because the question itself presents endless possibilities to the human mind. However, the actual text produced is often mundane and may not compare to what a skilled human could generate. As technology advances, the quality of AI will continue to improve, but we should not forget that it is our own intelligence that is being reflected back at us.

Ethical impulses

Our vulnerability lies in how we anthropomorphize robots, attributing them with emotions and consciousness that they do not possess. This can be exploited for deception and manipulation. As machines continue to advance, it is crucial to study and comprehend the nature of creativity and how it shapes our society through shared imaginative experiences.

As robotic technology becomes more prevalent in our daily lives, it is increasingly important to educate future generations about humanities such as culture, art, philosophy, and history. Although 2024 is not predicted to be the year of a robot takeover, it will be a crucial year for recognizing the impact of AI on society and advocating for political action.

The two main driving forces behind the progress of technology are the desire for profit in the commercial sector and the competition between countries for strategic and military superiority. History has shown that these motivations are not easily controlled by ethical considerations, even when there is a stated intention to act responsibly. With regards to AI, there is a specific concern that the general public may not be able to keep up with the complex issues that policymakers must address. This can result in either apathy and lack of accountability, or irrational fear and poorly thought out legislation. Therefore, it is crucial to distinguish between the unrealistic depictions of all-powerful robots in science fiction and the reality of highly advanced tools that ultimately take direction from humans.

Many people who are not experts find it difficult to comprehend how extremely powerful computers function, but this is not a prerequisite for understanding how to control technology. We do not have to wait and see what capabilities robots possess when we already understand the essence of being human and that our choices, not the machines we create, hold the potential for both good and evil.

Source: theguardian.com