Will AI Kill Us All? No, But the Hype Can Be Damaging to Mental Health

June 11, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

I missed the talk about how AI will kill us all. Planned? Nah, heavy traffic. From what I heard, none of the cyber investigators believed the person trying hard to frighten law enforcement cyber investigators. There are other — slightly more tangible threats. One of the attendees whose name I did not bother to remember asked me, “What do you think about artificial intelligence?” My answer was, “Meh.”


A contrarian walks alone. Why? It is hard to make money being negative. At the conference I attended June 4, 5, and 6, attendees with whom I spoke just did not care. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Good enough.

Why you may ask? My method of handling the question is to refer to articles like this: “AI Appears to Rapidly Be Approaching Be Approaching a Brick Wall Where It Can’t Get Smarter.” This write up offers an opinion not popular among the AI cheerleaders:

Researchers are ringing the alarm bells, warning that companies like OpenAI and Google are rapidly running out of human-written training data for their AI models. And without new training data, it’s likely the models won’t be able to get any smarter, a point of reckoning for the burgeoning AI industry

Like the argument that AI will change everything, this claim applies to systems based upon indexing human content. I am reasonably certain that more advanced smart software with different concepts will emerge. I am not holding my breath because much of the current AI hoo-hah has been gestating longer than new born baby elephant.

So what’s with the doom pitch? Law enforcement apparently does not buy the idea. My team doesn’t. For the foreseeable future, applied smart software operating within some boundaries will allow some tasks to be completed quickly and with acceptable reliability.  Robocop is not likely for a while.

One interesting question is why the polarization. First, it is easy. And, second, one can cash in. If one is a cheerleader, one can invest in a promising AI start and make (in theory) oodles of money. By being a contrarian, one can tap into the segment of people who think the sky is falling. Being a contrarian is “different.” Plus, by predicting implosion and the end of life one can get attention. That’s okay. I try to avoid being the eccentric carrying a sign.

The current AI bubble relies in a significant way on a Google recipe: Indexing text. The approach reflects Google’s baked in biases. It indexes the Web; therefore, it should be able to answer questions by plucking factoids. Sorry, that doesn’t work. Glue cheese to pizza? Sure.

Hopefully new lines of investigation may reveal different approaches. I am skeptical about synthetic (or made up data that is probably correct). My fear is that we will require another 10, 20, or 30 years of research to move beyond shuffling content blocks around. There has to be a higher level of abstraction operating. But machines are machines and wetware (human brains) are different.

Will life end? Probably but not because of AI unless someone turns over nuclear launches to “smart” software. In that case, the crazy eccentric could be on the beam.

Stephen E Arnold, June 11, 2024


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