Should We Beware Of The AI Overlords?

AI
Image by Ariel Rodriguez from Pixabay

If you’ve listened to the news or even some politicians, artificial intelligence (AI) is coming to take your job. It’s just a matter of when. Is this really the case?

Last week there was an article posted in a communicator’s forum that I frequent about Chase committing to AI to write marketing copy (you can read it here).

It was an interesting conversation to see play out. There were feelings of uneasiness and concern. Rightly so. After all, writing copy is what we do. It’s part of marketing communication.

When I read the article in question there was a big revelation. AI didn’t write copy, it re-wrote it. A subtle difference to some but a difference all the less. AI needed the copy to be there already to do its work. We’re not out of a job yet.

We come back to the basic question though. Are the AI overlords going to come and take our jobs? That’s a question worth exploring.

This week I’m taking a left turn. It’s probably a turn AI would never have seen coming based on my blog history.

Let’s talk about AI and what it could mean.

Machines Make Our Lives Easier

Before we worry about AI, let’s take a look backward. Most machines were created with the goal to make our lives easier.

Do you use a washing machine or a dishwasher? Imagine having to wash all your clothes by hand. It would take a really long time. Doing dishes has never been my favorite activity. I still do them sometimes but I try and get as much into the dishwasher as I can. It saves me loads of time.

I don’t use my microwave for cooking but it does save time defrosting things and heating leftovers up. It’s a nice convenience to have. Especially when I forgot to get out the hamburger.

Do you have an Instant Pot? Slow cooker? Coffee maker? These are all machines that make our lives a little easier.

Machines Replacing Humans

Most technology is designed to make processes more efficient and save money. Sometimes this means taking a job from a human.

Farmers use tractors, harvesters, and combines. This takes many jobs away from people but makes the farm more efficient and profitable in the long term.

When I was younger (and playing the drums), I was horrified by drum machines. Many Pop and Rap acts liked to use them because it was cheaper and more convenient. This came at the cost of a human who played drums.

It’s no secret that factories have become more and more dependent on automation costing thousands of jobs. While this can be good for companies and investors it’s not so good for the people who were working those jobs.

Machines Can Learn Too

One of the most interesting things about AI is machine learning. It has been around in simple forms for several years. Like many of the things we have already discussed, it’s here to make life easier.

You’ve experienced it in many places. When you watch a movie or tv show on Netflix it recommends others that it thinks you might like. Amazon makes suggestions based on your purchase history. Pandora builds stations from an artist, song, or genre and uses your likes and dislikes to hone it.

I use a program called Grammarly to make sure I’m not misspelling any words and to check for grammar errors.

Machines Make Mistakes Too

Machines are rational and they are bound by rules. If they don’t know or understand all the rules they will make mistakes.

About 30% of Grammarly’s suggestions I’m given would, ironically, result in bad grammar. It also doesn’t always catch misspellings.

I found Pandora to be limited in the suggestions it made and it never went across genres. For some reason, it just couldn’t fathom that I would want to listen to Miles Davis and then Metallica. They don’t exactly correlate.

Netflix was so frequently wrong with the suggestions it made that I started ignoring it. Yes, I like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but that doesn’t mean I like all the other 80’s movies in that vein.

I’m sure these things will all get better in the future but for now, they are limited by the data and the rules they are using.

But there is another reason why they are wrong sometimes.

Machines are Rational but People Aren’t

Have you ever had that, “What was I thinking” moment? Yeah…we’ve all been there. We make choices that really make no sense.

Even more interesting are the decisions that only make sense to us but nobody else and somehow they work.

AI, like Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, will likely never understand humanity.

I can’t really explain why I like Mozart and Van Halen. It doesn’t really make any sense as they are both so different musically but I do. I love Finding Nemo but I also love Seven which is dark and kind of messed up.

I once read an interview by a musician who said something along the lines that if he got some MIT scholars and had them look at his career, they would put him in an insane asylum. The funny thing he was very successful at what he did. Make sense?

Creative Ideas will Always Belong to People

I had a friend who said she believed that AI would take over the more mundane tasks leaving things like creativity to humans. I agree with her but recently she changed her tune a little when she heard Watson playing Mozart. It kind of rattled her. It shouldn’t have. Computers/machines have been able to play music for at least 30 years.

I have no doubt that eventually, AI will be able to compose a song. Music follows rules like anything and all it requires is that they are learned. However, when music goes in a new direction, it’s because somebody thinks outside the box. In other words, they break the rules or just invent a whole new set of rules. Mozart, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Edward Van Halen…the list goes on…all broke the rules or created new ones.

AI will always be bound by rules and its weakness is that it’s rational. As I pointed out earlier, since when are humans rational?

Just because I like something doesn’t mean I will like another thing that is similar. Just because I react to this thing now doesn’t mean that I will react to it again or something like it in the future.

Final Thoughts

AI and machine learning have shown promise. IBM’s Watson, which was probably the introduction to AI for many of us, was used in a special edition of Jeopardy and dominated two of the best players in Jeopardy history. But it was wrong too. Multiple times. Some of the answers didn’t even make sense.

AI will succeed when it comes the mundane. It will succeed when it understands all the rules.

What does this mean for us and our jobs? It means the same thing it has always meant when it comes to technology. It will further eliminate the mundane tasks that eat up our time making us more efficient. Yes, there will be some jobs lost. That’s sometimes a consequence but being human isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength.

Shane Carpenter
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