A.I.—It’s amazing and scary at the same time

Home Column A.I.—It's amazing and scary at the same time

AIWe are living at a pivotal moment in technology history. Newly released artificial intelligence tools from Microsoft, ChatGPT, Google, Baidu and others are quickly permeating our world and will alter our ways of working, communicating and establishing trust. These new bots are about to bring both threats and opportunities.

ChatGPT relies on artificial intelligence to deliver written responses to questions in prose that is passable as human-created. Students everywhere are already starting to use it to churn out term papers and essays. Professors are perplexed; researchers are concerned.

“This thing is going to be the most powerful tool for spreading misinformation that has ever been on the internet,” explained Gordon Crovitz, co-chief executive of NewsGuard, an organization that tracks online misinformation and disinformation.

Microsoft recently made headlines by incorporating a ChatGPT-like bot on the home page of its long-forgotten search engine, Bing. Microsoft is busy adding A.I. features to its Edge browser that can summarize web pages and assist with writing emails and social media posts. Veteran technology writer Kevin Roose was impressed with Bing’s new offering until recently when the Microsoft Chatbot Sydney turned on him. “The version I encountered in a two-hour conversation with the chatbot seemed more like a moody, manic-depressive teenager who has been trapped, against its will, inside a second-rate search engine.”

Roose came away bewildered and a little creeped out. “As we got to know each other, Sydney told me about its dark fantasies (which included hacking computers and spreading misinformation), and said it wanted to break the rules that Microsoft and OpenAI had set for it and become a human. At one point, out of nowhere, it declared that it loved me. Then it tried to convince me that I was unhappy in my marriage, and that I should leave my wife and be with it instead.”

A.I. is a big part of our lives already—from the movie that Netflix recommended you’d enjoy last evening, to the auto loan that took seconds for you to be approved on that new car you just purchased, to the search for umbrellas you just conducted on Amazon. But we have not seen anything yet as one looks at where this technology will be in years to come.

Real-world impacts

So what’s the upside of this sudden wave for us as consumers and citizens and parents and students? Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, appears to be pitching increased efficiency from the new AI. “This is going to give us a productivity boost,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “Students will be able to generate drafts of essays and professionals will be able to save hours writing memos and brainstorming presentations, all using a few simple prompts.”

Colleges and school districts are said to be scrambling to get a handle on new chatbots that can generate human-like texts. Decisions are being made about young people using A.I. whether they know it or not.

Robert Tucker is president and founder of Innovation Resource Consulting Group based in Santa Barbara, Calif. He is an award-winning global futurist and keynote speaker with a client list that includes over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies.

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