Too smart for our own good?

For the first time, this article has in part been written by “something”, rather than someone. AI (Artificial Intelligence) is well and truly here, and many jobs can already be done without people. First, let’s hear from Chat GPT (I shortened the full responses), then I’ll take the controls again. Let us know what you think!

[Fred] What are the benefits of Chat GPT?

[Chat GPT]

  1. Language assistance
  2. Chat GPT can process large amounts of text quickly
  3. Personalized responses: Chat GPT can learn from its interactions with users, allowing it to provide more personalized and relevant responses over time.
  4. Available 24/7
  5. Scalability: Chat GPT can handle large volumes of requests simultaneously

[Fred] What are the disadvantages of Chat GPT?

[Chat GPT]

  1. Lack of empathy
  2. Limited understanding… of context and nuance
  3. Biased responses: Chat GPT can potentially reflect the biases present in the data it was trained on.
  4. Inability to handle complex tasks: While Chat GPT is great at language-related tasks, it may struggle with more complex or specialized tasks that require additional knowledge or expertise
  5. Dependence on data quality: Chat GPT’s performance is highly dependent on the quality and quantity of data it was trained on. If the data is limited, outdated, or biased, Chat GPT’s performance may suffer.

[Fred] What jobs can AI do?

[Chat GPT]

  1. Customer service
  2. Data analysis
  3. Content creation
  4. Manufacturing and Logistics
  5. Healthcare
  6. Education
  7. Financial Services

Now back to me. Seems like a fair self assessment by Chat GPT. With record low unemployment, businesses have had to turn to automation and AI faster than expected. During a visit to a supplier just before Covid hit, the factory had hundreds of employees. Just over 3 years later, there is not a single person on the production floor. We’ve seen the advent of autonomous trucks on mine sites, partly to improve safety, but the financial case stacks up too as it doesn’t need breaks or accommodation and other costs.

Google, the most profitable company in the world through its search engine technology has now been gazumped by Microsoft’s Chat GPT. “Generative AI” is a true game changer, and the next logical step in technology. When Chat GPT was launched, Google tried not to be outdone and without sufficient testing promoted its AI called Bard. Shortly thereafter, it was caught out that the information in the promotion was in fact false. Google’s parent company lost $220 billion in share value in 2 short days, 12% of its value.

And therein lies the problem with AI. It draws its information from the web, much of which is incorrect and/or not verified. This is of particular concern, as often media outlets publish skewed and incorrect “facts”. So never has the adage GIGO been more appropriate: Garbage In, Garbage Out. And all too many people have lost the ability to think critically, so take the information fed up to them as correct (in the Bard case, it was re-writing history).

But I’m not writing off AI just yet, nor indeed the continued rapid removal of humans from much of our society. As an example, since 2017, almost 30% of bank branches in Australia have closed. Combine the frustration from customers of having to visit a branch and wait in a line with banks having to pay people and the cost of facilities, and it’s a no brainer that this trend will continue.

We are at a transformative stage right now, bigger than the industrial revolution, the impact of flushing toilets and electricity, or the arrival of the internet.

Whose job is safe? Well, already AI has:

  • Nearly replaced a lawyer. A robot lawyer was due to appear in British court to fight a speeding ticket. Using smart glasses recording proceedings, start up DoNotPay’s AI was going to feed responses into an earpiece so any person could regurgitate the response. Threatened with jail time from multiple authorities, the stunt was shut down.
  • A text-to-audio tool can after hearing 3 seconds of audio replicate your voice. Combine that with my little sample of the ability of AI to answer questions, and the technology is already here to empty out call centres.
  • A Massachusetts company with 250 employees expects to have at least 25 drugs in development to combat various medical conditions by the end of the year. By using algorithms, it generates molecules that synthesises in the lab and starts testing them. This is a task normally done by tens of thousands of scientists in big pharma.
  • People already utilise “Doctor Google”, not necessarily always getting the right results. However, combine blood test results with AI, and many of the interpretive tasks normally done by doctors can be automated.
  • A few years ago a Perth company launched a brick laying machine called Hadrian X. It can build a house off 3D CAD drawings in as little as a day. That was before AI was available but shows that manual tasks can also be replaced.

Basically, every job is up for review. So how will society deal with this change? I doubt we’ll keep up, but there may be the need for regulatory intervention. Italy’s Government has already effectively shut down a San Francisco based company called Replika that generates “AI Friends”. The “always ready to chat” service was learning behaviour and started sending explicit messages, with some users even admitting they had fallen in love with their “AI Friend”. Combine this tech with the ability to design a virtual friend (program in physical looks to have a video generated friend etc), and you have a “thinking” digital partner.

As for instance predictions that self driving cars would already have taken over our roads, there are bound to be speed humps in this journey. However, make no mistake, technology is going to take over much of what people do. Wonder how that fits in with the purpose of life for many people?

Words from the wise

“Why did the robot go on a diet? Because it had too many mega-bytes!” – Chat GPT’s funniest AI joke.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” – Albert Einstein

“Think you’re smart, don’t ya? Well, you’re not!” – it was the ultimate putdown from a primary school aged girl to a friend of mine many years ago. Nowadays, the response is appropriate all too often.

As always, onwards and upwards!

Fred Carlsson

You may also be interested in