Scientists have sounded the alarm about artificial intelligence for years — and with good reason. The increased dependence on automation, whether it comes in the form of a self-driving vehicle or a tactical robocop, raises important questions about whether a machine can do the job of a human and whether we should even let it try.
A new development on the AI front makes this debate even more pressing.
This month, tech company OpenAI launched a new platform called ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that can perform astonishing tasks, such as drawing a portrait or writing a haiku, after being given a few prompts. For example, a friend of mine on Twitter asked ChatGPT to write “a limerick about Kanye West’s downfall,” referring to the rap artist’s depressing descent into rabid antisemitism and conspiracy theorizing.
ChatGPT offered him this: “There once was a man named Kanye / whose ego was larger than any / he thought he was great / but his fall from grace / left him looking quite small and puny.”
I get paid to write for a living, and I don’t think I could have come up with anything better. In fact, I’m not sure I would have been able to come up with that little poem at all. My brain just isn’t wired that way.
But that’s the beauty (and danger) of AI. Your artistic and intellectual weaknesses no longer matter because now you can rely on technology to fill in the gaps for you.
Our culture is already used to this trade-off to a certain extent. Access to the internet and the instant gratification it provides have left us with little, if any, need for effort. If I’m not sure how to convert grams to a pound, for example, no matter — Google can make the conversion for me in under a second.
The problem, of course, is that our lack of having to try has made us all a bit dumber. No one likes to admit that, but there’s no question we’ve become more stagnant and less fulfilled over the past several decades, even as technology has advanced and made all of our lives much easier.
So, as AI continues to progress, the question we must wrestle with is simple: Is easier really better?