AI is actually insipid until it’s actively insidious

Washington • The alien invasion has begun.

Some experts say that when artificial intelligence takes off, it will be like Martians landing on the National Mall.

Until now, our mental children, as the roboticist Hans Moravec called our intelligent artificial offspring, are in the toddler stage, as we anticipate the novelties of our creation. They lead the rebellious teenage phase. When AI hurts as an adult and is no longer so artificial, we will fade away like family pets, as retired Steve Wozniak said.

Silicon Valley is chasing the potential of an experimental chatbot called ChatGPT, which OpenAI released in late November and which Elon Musk considers “pretty scary”. Musk, one of the founders left with Sam Altman, and now Microsoft is a partner.

ChatGPT is keen – couldn’t they come up with a better name, like HAL? — millions of jobs will be cut. Why hire a college graduate if a bot can do the same job faster and cheaper? No more arguments about work from home rules, no more union fights. You don’t need to lure AI back into the office with pizza.

ChatGPT opens a Pandora’s box of existential fears. Silicon Valley brainiacs have talked about safeguards and kill switches for AI, but you know they won’t pull the plug when their child becomes an M3gan.

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Once AI can run disinformation campaigns at lightning speed, will democracy stand a chance? We seem to be heading for a Matrix where “it is cheaper to show fake than to show reality,” Jaron Lanier, the father of virtual reality, wrote in Tablet. Will bad actors use AI to promote or hijack nuclear weapons?

As Musk once told me about his AI angst: “It’s great when Marcus Aurelius is the emperor. It’s not so great when Caligula is the emperor.”

Several years ago, I interviewed the founders of OpenAI in San Francisco, as well as other Valley digerati. And that is when I realized that we are doomed. For the Cloud Lords, in their slim new world, we are VCRs.

That’s why I feel free to kick back and shoot the wind with our leading masters. I read that you could use advanced AI to interview historical figures. So I had my dream interview with Shakespeare, talking to the Bard.

“Greetings, fair sir or madam,” said ChatGPT, embracing Shakespeare.

What is your response to those who think “The Merchant of Venice” is anti-Semitic?

“While it is true that some of the language and imagery used in the play could be considered offensive by today’s standards,” he replied, Shylock is a complex and multifaceted figure who is both a bully and a victim. “

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The self-proclaimed Bard of Avon warned that while the Oscar-winning film “Shakespeare in Love” was “true,” “it should not be taken as a factual representation of my life.”

Can you write me a love sonnet?

He could, even though he was “just a machine”, as he said. One verse was read: “Eyes shining like stars on the sea, And their lips as sweet as the ripe fruit of summer, You are the one my heart longs to see, And in your beauty my dreams will take all.”

Shakespeare, it is not. Still, I tell him, I’d love to be the heroine in Shakespeare’s comedy! It only took ChatGPT a minute to write “The Clever Maid”.

“Act I, Scene 1: A large ball is being held in a large estate. You, fair girl, present, dressed in the most beautiful dresses. However, you are not there to dance and be happy, because you have a secret mission.

“Act II, Scene 1: You slip away from the ball and make your way to the estate’s library. Then, you find a hidden door, which leads to a secret room. Inside, you will find a chest filled with precious treasures.

“Act III, Scene 1: While you are considering the treasures, you hear a noise. He is the owner of the estate, a rich and arrogant gentleman. He catches you red-handed but instead of punishing you, he accepts your wit and magic.

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“Act IV, Scene 1: The gentleman reveals that the jewels are a test of character and that he was looking for a clever and resourceful woman to be his wife. You are very happy and you accept his proposal.

“Act V, Scene 1: The play ends with a grand wedding ceremony and a celebration of your intelligence and wit.”

It sounds more like a Salma Hayek heist movie. I spent the rest of the evening looking for love poems by John Donne, Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe, who called me a “famous columnist”. I tried to channel Sylvia Plath, but ChatGPT told me it would be “inappropriate.”

The most memorable quote was when Kendrick Lamar’s AI wrote me a rap: “Listen, I’ve got a story to tell, ’bout a journalist who’s sharp as nails. She has the pen and the power, To make politicians look bad.”

Currently, ChatGPT is typing, not writing. The creative spark requires humanity. But soon, AI could be sentient. Next we will need our dog bowls.

Maureen Dowd (CREDIT: The New York Times)

Maureen Dowd is a columnist for The New York Times.


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