Are you worried about “The AI”? If you are, you shouldn’t be. This is AI’s second public relation’s effort at taking over either simply “the world,” or perhaps even “Life, the Universe and Everything.”
The first effort was during the 1980s, when desktop microcomputers, such as Atari, Commodore PET, Ohio Scientific, Radio Shack’s TRS80 and finally even the IBM PC appeared on the scene. I worked in banking and computers at the time, and our software engineers began to get calls from customers explaining that our interest calculations were wrong, because they didn’t line up with what they produced at home.
Our savings system programmer was the most entertaining to listen to when he related these calls. Invariably, the customer would cite the computer word size he used in the calculations, saying, “This system uses an eight-bit word for its calculations, it must be accurate.” After a time, the programmer would say, “Well, our mainframe uses a 64-bit word. I think we’re going to stick with those results.”
The AI cheering section at that time consisted of some of the top university computer scientists in America. Marvin Minsky is the only name I remember; I think he came from MIT. There were five or six more, and together they were big proponents that Artificial Intelligence was going to take over everything.
As I recall, there were only a very few useable AI systems that had been developed and did anything of value. They were actually called Expert Systems at the time. Digital Equipment had developed a computer configuration system. The sales person put in the customer information, the DEC minicomputer system purchased, and the system would configure the customer’s new computer and order the parts the installers would need to properly assemble the system for the customer.
Perhaps the most impressive system of that era was known as Mycin SP. It was designed to do only one thing: to diagnose spinal meningitis. It could be used by non-specialists and returned diagnostic results on a par with specialists. If the data it needed was not available, it would order the necessary tests.
There were other efforts, but I don’t recall them as being particularly successful. The big university computer scientists went from being AI’s biggest supporters to among its toughest critics. Pretty much their observation was that to be generally useful, AI systems would need to understand the English language. That proved to be far more difficult than anyone had imagined, and most of the early pioneers abandoned the cheering section after just a few years of failures.
There were lots of things that looked like AI on the surface. One of the most popular was a program named Eliza. It was a favorite of secretaries and support staff having a bad day. Eliza would talk to you about anything, as long as you typed it into her terminal. There was no intelligence, beyond simple word parsing and asking you questions about words you seemed to use more than others. Eliza didn’t understand anything. But that didn’t seem to deter her friends, who would chat with her for hours.
At least the AI effort at that time was a serious attempt to produce something new and useful. Today’s efforts are warmed up leftovers, being served as the answer to all of humanity’s problems, even down to personal significance.
The real intentions, however, are much more sinister and dark. It is propelled forward by an ignorant, deceitful media and billionaire boosters who want someone other than themselves to proclaim that the earth is over-populated and we need to kill enough people to make it sustainable (for them).
AI needs to be seen for what it is: a fantasy that deceitful liars and opportunists want to use as a vehicle to propel forward their own dreams of world domination, while blaming a hapless machine when things go horribly wrong. “The AI” is simply their “fall guy” for when their hopes and dreams for world domination for their exclusive benefit fail to produce the promised results. The previous researchers were true believers who gradually drifted away from the dream. Today’s proponents are frauds and opportunists looking to shield themselves from the ill effects of their godless plans to control the world. All they want is to deflect the blame for their failed political and social efforts onto a machine. “Oh, I had no idea. … I’m not sure who coded that part of the system. yadah, yadah, yadah.
Yadah. We’ve heard it all before, many times. God is not fooled, and neither are we. Gosh, even Amazon isn’t fooled. AI-created “books” have flooded their electronic shelves, pushing their human authors to the sidelines while customers look for some hidden meaning in the AI gobbledegook.
As usual, fiction explored this quagmire before the academics got there. Douglas Adams, writing in “The Hitchiker’s Gude to the Galaxy” series, described a computer known as Deep Thought. The assembled scientists gathered before it to ask it the Big Question: “What is the meaning of life, the universe and everything.” Deep Thought worked on the problem until its meltdown began. While the assembled scientists awaited the answer, Deep Thought announced that it did not have the answer. But it did not leave them without hope. It told them (paraphrasing), “I will design a greater computer that will be able to determine the answer for you.”
This new one churned on for many years. Finally it summoned its caretakers and told them that it had, in fact, arrived at the answer. “The answer is 42.”
Expert Systems, such as Mycin or today’s grand master chess computers, are not artificial intelligence. They are programmed devices that can calculate very quickly a variety of potential actions. Fast answers from a multitude of quick calculations should not be mistaken for the answers that we as human beings seek.
“The AI” is simply more “BS” from those who believe they are anointed to run the world. Ask yourself (or better yet, ask them), who it was that anointed them. Therein lies the truth.
Earth’s Final Kingdom Vol. IV in the Armageddon Story novel series, by Craige McMillan.
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