Why I’m no longer A-OK with AI

Amid the meteoric rise of artificial intelligence, chatbots and warnings to slow down for humanity to consider the implications, Ali Clarke took an outsider’s look at the issue – and found it disquieting.

May 11, 2023, updated May 11, 2023
AI generated image. Source: DALL-E 2/Prompt: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

AI generated image. Source: DALL-E 2/Prompt: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Regular readers of this column will know I’ve a … fraught … relationship with technology.

I find myself surrounded by peers of a similar vintage who are Zooming, Vorizoning and using their phone to control their houses daily, whilst I’m still relying on my street directory since developing trust issues with the Google Maps lady after she got me off the South Eastern Freeway an exit too early during my autumnal leaf hunt with the family a few years ago.

I regularly have to be reminded to shut down the tabs on my smart phone, am told to do something weird to my Facebook settings so people can share my posts, and if I had a dollar for every time I tried to evaluate the practicality and tech behind an air fryer … well, I would have had enough cash to buy eight of them.

It’s not that I don’t want to be on board and make my life easier at the click of a button or blink or an eye (literally); it’s just that whenever it gets to the stage where people try to explain how to use something new, I find my mind wandering to greener pastures like re-runs of The Golden Girls.

But, in the spirit of getting with the (computer) program and increasingly finding myself left out of conversations at work and barbeques, I decided this week to throw myself in to finding out everything there is to know about AI chatbots.

Turns out, it was not a good week to do that.

For those not in the know (and as you have just read, there is NO judgement here) a AI chatbot is a computer program that uses Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence to understand you and what you want, which allows them to respond like a human would.

In the interest of thoroughness, a simple chatbot does something similar, however it pushes you to a pre-programmed funnel of questions which it is able to answer.

Chances are you’ve already been talking to one of these things if you’ve bought anything on-line and had a question or needed a refund.

As someone who struggles to find pants to fit my freakishly long thighs, I loved missing the dreaded hold music and being served straight away, whilst also being able to contact someone/something 24/7. Brilliant!

And that’s not all. Proponents of AI Chatbots say they increase customer engagement, reap all the data you could possibly want and reduce stress of customers and business owners.

Expanding the lens further, some claim this new tech will do everything from lift people out of poverty, to creating job after job, all whilst offering a better education to this and the next generation.

So, armed with plenty of positives and willing to put my anti-tech-prejudice aside, I got stuck in.

Just one month ago Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple), Elon Musk (founder of Space X), the founder of Skype and a host of other peeps who live, breathe and have made zillions from adopting new tech, wrote an open letter.

In short, they are begging for those with AI tech to pump the brakes and put further development on hold for six months, so we – as in the human race we – have time to properly understand what this could do to us all.

It included lines like ‘profound risk to society and humanity’, ‘out-of-control race’ and the assertion that these are machine learning systems ‘that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control’.

Still I wasn’t overly perturbed right?

I mean maybe there are political and commercial reasons these people are biased.

Perhaps they don’t stand to make money from it?

Except a lot of them were well-known AI researchers.

After going into this process wanting to find the positives in this new world we’re sprinting at, I instead found the security walls we’re leaping over – with plenty of experts telling us to not to jump just yet

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One Reuters report outlined how their request was virtually (see what I did there) impossible to achieve, while plenty of critics shot down their concerns as nothing more than fearmongering.

Consider me mongered.

Then I found out Geoffrey Hinton, who many referred to as the ‘godfather of AI’, resigned from Google at the start of this month and in an open letter to the New York Times said he now regretted his work, had been blown away by the speed at which this technology is outthinking the smartest of us and used examples of what might happen if someone like Putin used it for evil.

There was the Goldman Sachs survey that said it will lead to the loss of 300 million jobs, a recent report directly comparing this entire system to the Terminator’s Skynet by someone who on paper looks like he should know – and then I came across a YouTube broadcast on behalf of the Centre for Humane Technology.

In just over an hour, The Social Dilemma’s Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin placated me, inspired me and then scared the absolute pants off me.

Whilst acknowledging the benefits of AI and apologising for any doomsaying they then shared this:

50% of AI researchers believe there’s a 10% or greater chance that humans go extinct from our inability to control AI.

Attention getting?




But then when they clearly break down the societal failures we’ve had around social media, which in essence was human’s first interaction with AI via those click-longer-algorithms, it’s hard not to become uneasy.

Then they show how just three seconds of someone’s voice is all it takes for AI to synthesise the rest of what we might want to say and highlight we’re already seeing scammers use loved one’s voices to steal.

In short, they believe ‘this is the year that all content-based security verification breaks … and our big institutions aren’t ready for it’.

Look, all of these warnings might be hyperbolic and the arguments for and against are no doubt more nuanced than the snippets you’ve read here, but after going into this process wanting to find the positives in this new world we’re sprinting at, I instead found the security walls we’re leaping over – with plenty of experts telling us to not to jump just yet.

History has been littered with those who are fearful of what’s to come. I don’t want to be that person, but instead of excitement, all I now want to do is hug my kids whilst pulling out all the plugs from the power points.

Of course, I would have had time to do that if I got an AI chatbot to write this.

Ali Clarke presents the breakfast show on Mix 102.3. She is a regular columnist for InDaily.

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