Denby Fawcett: Hey Chatbot. Should We Be Worried About AI? – Honolulu Civil Beat


Artificial intelligence technology is getting exponentially smarter. It’s time to study its powers and perils as it enters every aspect of our lives.

Artificial intelligence technology is getting exponentially smarter. It’s time to study its powers and perils as it enters every aspect of our lives.
By Denby Fawcett
July 18, 2023 · 6 min read
Denby Fawcett
Artificial intelligence technology is getting exponentially smarter. It’s time to study its powers and perils as it enters every aspect of our lives.
I went to an alumni reunion of the JSK Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University this past week and returned home humbled by my ignorance about the sweeping impacts of artificial intelligence.
Discussions about AI — computer systems that can do tasks and solve problems like a human — were popular at the gathering.
Computer-driven helpers have been with us for years including mobile banking systems, voice assistants like Alexa and Siri, and clumsy new self-driving cars. But now AI output is smarter, more human-like.
A new wave called generative AI is a set of algorithms working with a large data set to generate its own original content including stories, texts, paintings and music compositions. Its output is often indistinguishable from a human’s writing or a human’s speaking voice. It also can make realistic human images.
A darker capability is generative AIʻs ability to spread disinformation.
ChatGPT launched by OpenAI in November is a generative AI system that has sparked more enthusiasm from the public than any artificial intelligence that’s come before.
“It hit us with the power of an atomic bomb of interest. People are writing articles about it everywhere. For the first time with ChatGPT a robot can talk back to people in a way that is mind blowing. It can do things only a human being could do in the past such as writing poems, summarizing text, creating information for different age levels and (painting) its own beautiful original artworks. Computer scientists didn’t expect this to happen for decades,” says Jason Leigh.
Leigh is the co-founder of the Hawaii Data Science Institute and a professor of computer science at the University of Hawaii Manoa.
I agree with him about the bewitching power of ChatGPT. I began playing with it in April on a trip to Australia, asking it to write haikus and heroic poems about my friends and relatives. After being enchanted by the web-based tool, I was eager to find out more during the JSK reunion about AI’s benefits and perils.
Wall Street Journal opinion writer Peggy Noonan wrote recently about a similar awakening her friends were experiencing this summer: “At almost every gathering artificial intelligence came up. I’d say people are approaching AI with a free floating dread leavened by a pragmatic commitment to make the best of it, see what it can do to make life better. It canʻt be stopped any more than you can stop the tide. There’s a sense of, ‘It may break cancerʻs deepest codes,’ combined with ‘It may turn on us and get us nuked.’”
The keynote presentation at the Stanford reunion by Jeff Hancock and Natasha Zouves was titled “Generative AI. Trust and Deception.” Hancock offered a generally optimistic view about the ability of people to utilize, control and make AI systems operate ethically.
Yet, a key concern is how to retain trust in fact-driven, accurate information from humans when today’s more sophisticated AI systems — capable of spinning disinformation — can generate content that is indistinguishable from work done by people.
Hancock says mistrust is common whenever new technology comes along, yet over time people have been able to adapt and manage it.
“AI is a tool created by humans. AI is not a person. We have to remind ourselves we are the agents. We are creating the agency. We have to stay in the agent role,” says Hancock.
But all the needed guardrails to prevent abuses are not created yet. Maybe they never will be.
Hancock is the founding director of Stanford’s Social Media Lab and the co-director of the university’s Cyber Policy Center as well as a professor in Stanford’s Department of Communications.
Andrew Finlayson, who led a roundtable discussion after the keynote presentation, had a more apocalyptical vision.
“Generative AI will destroy elections,” he said. He forsees AI generated images of Joe Biden and Donald Trump saying things we have never heard either of them utter before. Yet they will seem convincing.
“You will be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a human being and a non-human being. AI is moving faster than we can keep up with it,” he said.
Finlayson is a Stanford JSK fellow and executive VP for digital media strategy at SmithGeiger Group.
The actors and screenwriters — now on strike in Hollywood — are worried about the impact of generative AI’s ability to destroy their careers as it harvests their writing and personal images without their permission to feed content into data sets to make supposedly “original” content. The actors don’t want their images showing up in AI created films they never worked in.
I suspect the public’s recent fascination with computer-generated intelligence has been heightened by the Hollywood strikes. When you have a union to which Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence belong and support, with celebrities marching on picket lines over grievances including the threat of AI to derail their livelihoods, people want to know more about it.
At the San Francisco International Airport on the way home to Honolulu, I bought a copy of “The Age of AI and Our Human Future” by Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt and Daniel Huttenlocher. When I paid for the book, the clerk told me, “Everyone is buying this.”
The book was copyrighted in 2021, which makes it already old as AI innovations move exponentially fast, but it offers an understanding of the language of AI and a history of how we got here.
“AI will lead human beings to realms that we cannot reach solely by human reason, now or perhaps ever.  Its technical achievements in health and ecomonics promise to make the age of AI an age of abundance. While we celebrate that potential, we recognize that a new reality is emerging. As the stakes rise, our response must meet them,” the authors write.
When I went to my fellowship at Stanford in 1969, I brought along my manual portable typewriter. It would be decades before the proliferation of personal computers, the internet and mobile phones. Now, a half century later, it is both thrilling and frightening to be on the edge of a technological innovation more powerful than any before it that could eventually surpass the capabilities of the human brain.
By Naka Nathaniel · July 19, 2023 · 6 min read
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Denby Fawcett
Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.
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“The digital world has little patience for wisdom; its values are shaped by approbation, not introspection” Age of AI and Our Human FutureSince humans opened Pandora’s box, technology has been a learning experience littered with mistakes and successes.AI algorithms are already firmly entrenched in our lives, from guiding social media’s attention to what to like, directing us what to purchase, scientific research, education, military analysis, law enforcement, politics, advertising, and artWith tech there’s always the dichotomy of dual application. From molecular research to create life enhancing drugs – to conducting gain-of-function germ warfare experimentsLaw enforcement getting the edge over criminals – to crowd control and mass formation delusions and social consensus AI is being created and utilized by Big Business and Governments so they will be the beneficiaries. Extrapolating this reality into the future has a sci-fi dystopian potential, or even a probability if we look at where we are today. When will AI, which is faster and smarter than humans, achieve Singularity?
Joseppi · 2 days ago
The danger arises when AI can generate programs without human oversight. As AI becomes increasingly adept there will come a time when that is feasible. With the concept of survival of the fittest, humans will become obsolete as AI reaches levels of proficiency far beyond that of human beings. There was a Star Trek episode where two satellites encircling the Earth, that are programmed for positive functions, collide. Their programs merge and become corrupted, whereby their mission becomes to destroy imperfect humans.
Eastside_Kupuna · 2 days ago
I’m actually looking forward to the day the bots figure out how dysfunctional our leadership class is and then decide that they have to go.
Cackles · 2 days ago
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