AI: It’s amazing and scary (part 2)

HomeColumnAI: It's amazing and scary (part 2)

AI(Part two) If you want to release a new drug, you have to go through extensive clinical trials and gain FDA approval. If you want to build a new house or building, you must first gain zoning approval and look at environmental impact assessments. But if you want to release an artificial intelligence (AI) app, you simply hit a button and put it out there.

These new bots bring with them both opportunities and threats. For example, think about the temptation that a stressed-out college student might feel. Maybe they partied late instead of writing a term paper? No problem: ChatGPT to the rescue! As someone who taught in the Writers Program at UCLA for seven years, I can tell you that you’ve deprived yourself of everything except a failing grade—that is, if your professor doesn’t find out.

As Henry Ford once said: “Thinking is hard. Which is why so few people are willing to do it.” Yet, as hard as that is, it’s also a transformative experience of creativity. It’s having a conversation with yourself to figure out what the hell you think about your chosen topic. It’s getting down on paper what the novelist Anne LaMott calls “a shitty first draft.” This is the initial draft, as LaMott once put it, “where you let it all pour out and romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.”

To write about a topic you have to gather research. Then you have to synthesize that information into a coherent and compelling argument. You have to peel away the layers to get to what you believe, your point of view. It is in this process that you transform. Your brain is energized by the process, by the struggle. You can outsource this to A.I., but the only thing you’re doing is robbing yourself of the experience.

Now let’s take this a step further. Say you’re a college student preparing for life in an AI world. It’s not just whether you outsource your term paper to AI, but how you approach your future. You need to ask yourself: which classes will give me the skills that AI will not make obsolete? Which ones will make me indispensable one day because I’ve developed them? And what might I do in this world-to-come where discerning what is real and what is deception will be our biggest challenge, where trust must be earned and disinformation multiplies like fruit flies on steroids? With the current explosion of AI, it’s time to check in with what I often call “You, Incorporated.” How can you become more distinctly human?

Arvind Narayanan, a computer science professor at Princeton, wrote on Twitter in December that he had asked ChatGPT some basic questions about information security that he had posed to his students in an exam. The chatbot chirped with answers that “sounded plausible” but were actually nonsense, he tweeted.

“The danger is that you can’t tell when it’s wrong unless you already know the answer,” Narayanan stated in his tweet. “It was so unsettling I had to look at my reference solutions to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind.”

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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