It probably started with chess.
The fairly simple rule set and even simpler board made it rather obvious that computer programs would be written that could challenge humans. Eventually computing power grew to the point where a computer program could equal or even surpass the best human players. Those are more of “expert systems” than true AIs, since they can do one thing very well, but not create anything new.
Then there were some simple “psychologist” programs, that picked up on words you typed and returned some standard responses that got you to elaborate on what you’d written. Nothing really advanced, but it got people talking and thinking about artificial intelligence.
Music was probably next. Mathematically analyze the works of a composer, and have a program “write” a piece in their style. An amusing little experiment, and nothing that could threaten any contemporary composer.
For years, artificial intelligence was a novelty; something discussed in theory by computer scientists and the like.
But now, things are changing at a dramatic pace.
Graphic AIs can search the Internet for artwork that meets certain search criteria, and then create an entirely new image based on those criteria. An “essay writing” AI is making university professors nervous, because students can use it to “write” essays good enough to make the grade. “Shudu Gram”, an AI “supermodel”, is drawing criticism not because “she” isn’t real, but because a white male created a black female character. Heck, even the Associated Press has been using “machine learning” software for a few years now. Experts in the field are saying that AIs that can take the place of customer service representatives, copywriters, or perform basic legal tasks are not too far off – the sort of jobs that are “skilled entry level” and the first step on a real career.
Some of this is undoubtedly good and useful.
What happens, though, when AIs can do everything? Decades ago, futurists told us that automation and computers would take care of all the grunt work, freeing us to pursue lives of leisure and creativity. I don’t mind using an ATM or a self-scan checkout lane at the supermarket. And I’ll begrudgingly use one of those ordering kiosk things that were installed at fast food restaurants during the Great COVID Lockdown. My job is pretty safe; by the time an AI can do it, I’ll be in the Old People’s Storage Facility listening to NurseBot 3000 remind me to take my meds.
But what of the kids these days? What will they do when the computers can do almost everything worth doing? A Universal Basic Income is clearly required by that point (it’s a very good idea anyway). This “Life of Leisure” that was predicted? Not everyone has a hobby or is good enough at sports for that to occupy their time 24/7/365. And even if the AIs weren’t taking over creativity, not everyone wants to have their own Etsy shop or is good enough at making things anyway. Some of us actually want to contribute to Society, and feel that our contributions are needed and welcome.
What happens when none of that matters because the ‘bots are doing all of it? I’m sure that we’ll eventually figure something out (we’ll have no choice). It’s the transition phase that’s going to be the problem.
How can we slow things down enough to give society (and our legal framework, for that matter – who owns the copyright on an AI image?) the chance to catch up?
First, do not use an AI program where you have the choice. Do the work yourself, and don’t allow your work to be used to train an AI.
Second, if you find someone using an AI, tell them to stop. Or at least that make it obvious that the “person” is an artificial one.
Call me a Neo-Luddite if you want. As I mentioned, I’m pretty safe from being replaced. On the other hand, I’m old enough to remember when my school got its first computer – a Commodore PET, complete with cassette tape drive – and with a little Internet searching, I can show that I was “online” before there was a World Wide Web. Of all the technological advances I’ve lived through, AIs are the first to really worry me.
So when it comes to AI – REFUSE TO USE.