Artificial Intelligence (AI) has recently been causing disruption to our industries and society at large. This disruption can be observed in a multitude of ways: chatbots can now complete complex tasks like writing papers or code in a fraction of the time it would take a person, voice modulators are now capable of accurately imitating the way people speak, and images can now imitate individuals, scenery, or art styles to the point where likenesses can be uncanny. This rampant change opens a new world of possibilities that should be met with both excitement and trepidation. Excitement because of the possibilities that it creates, and trepidation because of the societal problems that come with it.
However, we are very quick to assume what these exciting possibilities and societal problems come with the territory of AI. Optimists say that AI will bring a new world utopia and will solve every complex problem that humans have ever encountered. Naysayers say that AI will create more problems than the technology is worth, with issues ranging from “the technology will inevitably become sentient and destroy us all” to “AI is a job destroyer that will inevitably result in the destruction of the international economy”. It is not completely impossible that any of these ideas could be proven prophetic in the long run. However, based on what is currently on hand now, such futures are far from proven.
We are currently in a black box moment, uncertain of what futures AI will bring. We have been here before with the rise of many disruptive technologies. Across these technologies, we were quick to make assumptions that turned out to be incorrect. Examples of such include:
These examples show that immediate assumptions about new technologies often don’t come to pass the way that we think it will. The same can likely be said about AI. Consider that right now we understand that AI is capable of understanding and replicating linguistic form while it lacks an understanding in linguistic meaning. Ideas about whether AI will ever be capable of understanding linguistic meaning are speculative at this point. Whether or not AI is capable of linguistic meaning is key to the direction this revolution will go. We also do not know the guardrails and limitations in AI that will be put in place by regulators or even the regulations that could be created as the result of AI.
All of this can certainly be speculated on, but to believe that everything we predict about AI will come to pass is highly unlikely. After all, we’ve been wrong before.
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