Tuesday, July 9, 2024

I SEE, SAID THE BLIND MAN – An A.I. Cautionary Tale

For those of you still not terrified of artificial intelligence (AI), I offer this perspective.

One of AI’s up and coming players, C3 ai, is advertising on National Public Radio using the slogan, “Turns the invisible into the obvious.”

Does anyone else, in a world where the very notion of truth is being challenged, find this overt statement of purpose just chilling? It’s brazen; it’s warped; it’s nothing less than an admission of guilt.

  One minute there’s no smoking gun; the next,
  oh duh, there it is.

Yes, folks, here’s what we do at our company. We take stuff that’s not there and make even those not gullible enough to buy a conventional hard sell believe it is. What could possibly go wrong with that mission?

It’s worse than the sleaziest shyster lawyer. He can do a lot with a shred of evidence. But with AI, no evidence? No problem; we just let a computer make it up. One minute there’s no smoking gun; the next, oh duh, there it is.

Now I know AI’s being harnessed to do some real good. Stuff a real human brain might perhaps come up with…if it were just a bit smarter. In medicine, science, finance and many other fields it does seem these capabilities are being channeled to help people.

One inspiring example: Country music legend Randy Travis, effectively silenced by a stroke, is using AI to reclaim his own voice and make new recordings.

PHOTO: Larry McCormack, The Tennessean

But it’s when the technology is used to fool people that my blood pressure starts rising. Photographic sleights of hand, fake sound bites, cribbed term papers, facts disguised as “alternative facts.” *

The technology will soon be convincing enough
to sway just about anyone—even if there’s evidence to the contrary!


One of the great truisms of life, I’ve discovered, is that we see pretty much what we want to see, what we expect to see. So it’s really not that much of a stretch to get someone who believes in you to buy your lies, even if there’s not a shred of evidence.

In politics—not just in the U.S. but in other vulnerable democracies around the world—the perpetrators of AI deception are hard at work trying to get their oligarch and despot bosses elected, even if it means putting damning words into their opponents’ mouths.

PHOTO: TMZ / Getty

If it isn’t already, the technology will soon be convincing enough to sway just about anyone—incredibly, even if there’s evidence to the contrary! (Witness the staggering con job a certain orange-tainted charlatan has foisted on roughly 40 percent of our fellow Americans.)

PHOTO: Mikhail Svetlov

The fake news AI engenders doesn’t just feed the mass delusion of these rank and vile MAGA dimwits, it’s being weaponized by our country’s worst enemies, whose despotic rulers use it to exploit our every cyber—and, I would suggest, moral—weakness and influence our elections.

    It’s when artificial
    intelligence ends up in the hands of genuine
    ignorance that we begin to see its perils.

In my retired-life’s work noticing and celebrating Nature’s small wonders, I’m particularly aware of the impact of AI on my “realm.”

On Facebook, where the algorithm’s clearly typed me as a tree hugger and animal lover, it’s feeding me more and more posts depicting creatures or landscapes that are clearly manipulated—from simply pumping up the colors or sharpening the focus to totally making up some bird or butterfly that has never existed.

Hey fakers, if you want to create such an unnatural depiction of Nature, at least have the integrity to call it art. Nature didn’t make it; you did. And quit dumping it in my feed—even if you do so under the guise of a David Attenborough fan group—saying “look at this amazing thing.” It’s not a thing; it’s a fraud.

PHOTO: Foto IG:@axellmg

I should know better than to waste my time responding to such deceits. But I can’t help myself. On a recent post featuring a highly retouched, flashily color-enhanced “photo” of Guanajuato, Mexico, I commented “I love Guanajuato, and it’s beautiful enough without your garish AI ‘enhancement.’ Please don’t make visitors disappointed when they see its real, perfectly adequate colors.”

  We should all begin
  vetting our art as
  we vet our food.


And don’t get me going on AI’s wholesale theft and exploitation of artists’ work. A mendacity mafia is stealing everything from movie stars’ likenesses, to singers’ voices, to artists’ paintings, to designers’ and inventors’ ideas, and using them for their own profit.


Students can now easily plagiarize their term papers and theses; ad agencies replace their human copy writers with ad bots; conventional fine art is appropriated to create NFTs (non-fungible tokens).


No matter how sophisticated the technology gets, I suggest it can never capture the true soul of human-created art.

We should all begin vetting our art as we vet our food: with a concern for its origin, its unnatural modifications, and fair compensation for its original producers.

          Ultimately, we’re going to have to
          reign in this beast.

It’s when artificial intelligence ends up in the hands of genuine ignorance that we begin to see its perils. At its worst it can be far more than an affront to the truth; it poses a dire threat to our nation, nay all of humanity.

So far, the furthest top scientists have been willing to go in predicting AI’s potential harm is to say that the likelihood of the technology’s leading to the extinction of the human race is “unknown.” Good God, if you don’t know, who does?

So let’s not get sweet-talked into embracing a technology whose proponents swear is all soft and fuzzy when we know its potential for evil. I want to compare it with the NRA’s claiming the utter innocence of high-powered assault rifles and bump stocks. You’ve heard it: Oh, it’s not the guns killing those innocent school children; it’s bad people.

But, while blood on classroom floors is horrifying, a weapon that threatens the survival of every human being on earth makes that look pretty innocent.

 If we fail to control AI before it learns how to be sentient and wrest control from its creators, we should all redirect our “thoughts and prayers” from the grieving families of murdered young students toward ourselves.

CAPTURE: from the Twentieth Century Fox film iRobot

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”


* "Alternative facts" was a phrase used by U.S. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's false statement about the attendance numbers of Donald Trump's inauguration as President of the United States. ~ WIKIPEDIA


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