The future is here, the future is bright. There’s no need to learn for exams, no need for authors to write. All we must do is chat to your phone and it’ll spew out another groundbreaking novel. School kids only need to ask the laptop to complete their assignments. Minutes later the piece on Alexander Graham Bell is printing out. Your teacher won’t be able to tell you haven’t done it. More time to spend on the Xbox for you. Artificial Intelligence has arrived.
We’re only in the shallow waters of this new revolution. Ai has barely knocked at the door to announced her presence. Imagine how powerful AI will be in five years, ten years, a century? Should we worry that our future will be AI guided? Will we get lazy and let AI take the strain and the pain from us?
As writers we like to think that this revolution will pass us by. What has it to offer us. We already are happy with the way we work. Yet the blurring between human creative thoughts and machines is blurring. Can AI now produce work on a parr with the great writers of yesteryear? Wil we be able to tell whether it came from the fruitful mind of a fellow traveller or is it the cold irrational thoughts of the all-powerful AI engine?
Amazon is now limiting authors to just six uploads to its eBook store. That’s six a day. Let that sink in. How does any human author produce six full length novels or non-fiction books in a day? Let’s face it, it’s impossible for even the most productive writers. The kindle bookstore is literally drowning under the weight of these AI produced books. There’s no way of telling at first glance that it’s produced by artificial means. Sure, you can check out how many books the author has written in the past years, but many are conned into purchasing these works.
As I stated, we’re just in the initial waves of this new beast. AI has been around as long as computers. Over the years they’ve got better as the programming skills have improved. In 1950, the great Alan Turing proposed a test he called the imitation game. It basically was about if a person could tell if a conversation was with a fellow human or a machine. It’s been held up over the years as the litmus test for artificial intelligence.
Computers have got more powerful and dedicated machines have beat grandmasters at chess. Yet even though that is good, it’s a very limited set of instructions for the computer to understand and master. Being creative is the next step. Can an AI be truly creative? Would we be able to tell the difference? For now, I think we’re quite safe from this step, but Ai is learning faster than we are.
Theres a lot being made about AI taking over. Of a machine uprising that will have control over vital parts of our lives. Already they’re used in integral parts of our lives. They run our power grids albeit under the gaze of watching humans. Back in the 1980’s, a film called War Games was released. Although it was a bit kitsch, it stands up well today. The premise is a computer tries to start a war in the world when it thought the game that it was playing. A tense final scene sees the computer learning that in a nuclear war, no one will win. We hope that no one will be stupid enough to put an AI in charge of our defence, although we elected as Prime Minister Boris ‘I’m a liar’ Johnson, so who knows.
As in all revolution there are winners and losers. Invariably the losers tend to be those poorest in society. Workers thrown on the scrapheap. In the 1980’s it was manufacturing workers. Skilled men earning good money-making steel, mining coal. Then it became cheaper to bring in imports from across the world. Whole communities were devastated. The economic revolution of the 80s. The new AI revolution will no doubt have the same effect.
This time the people displaced in the name of progress will be those in the creative industries. Graphic artists, film makers, sound engineers and maybe even journalists and authors will be thrown on the scrapheap, their services can now be achieved through the all-conquering AI.
A few weeks ago, the Beatles released a new song, supposedly by the power of AI. Yet when you looked it wasn’t. Yes, artificial intelligence helped resurrect it, but the track was crucially written by a human, the instruments by fellow band members. AI enabling it all to be put together, however it was a human who composed, sung and played on the song.
I know we’ll get more from AI than we lose. New techniques to prevent and analyse disease are already bearing fruit, yet I wonder what humanity will lose in the process. Creativity is under assault from the AI beast. Have we already lost the battle or are we going to look forward to a new world of enlightenment? Time will tell.
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