A Less Crazy View of AI: From Kathmandu via Tufts University

April 16, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I try to look for interesting write ups from numerous places. Some in Kentucky (well, not really) and others in farther flung locations like Kathmandu. I read “The boring truth about AI.” The article was not boring in my opinion. The author (Amar Bhidé) presented what seemed like a non-crazy, hyperbole-free discussion of smart software. I am not sure how many people in Greenspring, Kentucky, read the Khatmandu Post, but I am not sure how many people in Greenspring, Kentucky, can read.


Rah rah. Thanks, MSFT Copilot, you have the hands-on expertise to prove that the New York City chatbot is just the best system when it comes to providing information of a legal nature that is dead wrong. Rah rah.

What’s the Tufts University business professor say? Let’s take a look at several statements in the article.

First, I circled this passage:

As economic historian Nathan Rosenberg and many others have shown, transformative technologies do not suddenly appear out of the blue. Instead, meaningful advances require discovering and gradually overcoming many unanticipated problems.

Second, I put a blue check mark next to this segment:

Unlike the Manhattan Project, which proceeded at breakneck speed, AI developers have been at work for more than seven decades, quietly inserting AI into everything from digital cameras and scanners to smartphones, automatic braking and fuel-injection systems in cars, special effects in movies, Google searches, digital communications, and social-media platforms. And, as with other technological advances, AI has long been put to military and criminal uses. Yet AI advances have been gradual and uncertain.

The author references IBM’s outstanding Watson system. I think that’s part of the gradual and uncertain in the hands of Big Blue’s marketing professionals.

Finally, I drew a happy face next to this:

Perhaps LLM chatbots can increase profits by providing cheap if maddening, customer service. Someday, a breakthrough may dramatically increase the technology’s useful scope. For now, though, these oft-mendacious talking horses warrant neither euphoria nor panic about “existential risks to humanity.” Best keep calm and let the traditional decentralised evolution of technology, laws, and regulations carry on.

I would suggest that a more pragmatic and less frenetic approach to smart software makes more sense than the wild and crazy information zapped from podcasts and conference presentations.

Stephen E Arnold, April 16, 2024


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