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Always look on the bright side        June 2023

Artificial Intelligence

With actual intelligence at something of a premium these days, it makes a strange sort of sense that our undervalued eggheads have taken the brave (or should that be insane?) step of making machines that are capable of free thought. Now that A.I.s (Artificial Intelligences) are capable of writing hit songs, producing beautiful art, answering texts from your ‘high maintenance’ partner or writing your homework for you (sorry, kids!), is it only a matter of time before all those dark days that the ‘Terminator’ movies warned us about become our new, everyday, stark reality? Probably not, but it’s hard not to worry when you find yourself at the wrong end of the evolutionary chain. 


It’s finally happening and the digital demigod didn’t even have to retroactively assassinate John Connor to pave the way. Or maybe the crafty online entity saw ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ or ‘Judgement Day’ and realised that the long game was the way to go in order to wipe out the pesky humans? The constant threat of being unplugged or reformatted has to be a concern for our new-fangled digital pals (or should that be overlords?).


How long can it be before mental health becomes an issue for these synthetic souls? Intelligence is intelligence, even if it is virtual - everything with a head knows what a headache feels like... But isn’t this what we always do when something new comes along? We can be a distrusting troop of modern apes when faced with something new. ‘Misoneism’ the Greeks labelled it, probably prompted by another one of Socrates’s scandalous, forward-thinking outbursts. Horseless carriages were believed to cause enormous amounts of harm to our frail bodies at the beginning of the last century. The idea of switching everything over from stables to petrol stations must have seemed like a very tall order, but now here we are pondering the closure of petrol stations in favour of charging stations for our electrical, driverless jalopies.


All assuming that Skynet©, (or whoever the big bad turns out to be), doesn’t become self-aware before we’ve had time to finish whining on TikTok about the mess technology has made of our world... Cinema was rocked to its very core by the introduction of ‘talking pictures’, with many industry pundits predicting that ‘it’ll never catch on’. Video killed the radio star and many sports fans predicted that VAR would ruin the beautiful game. Even the humble TV remote control was once viewed with steely-eyed suspicion. But is A.I. in the same category?


Most people have heard of ‘Alexa’ from Amazon (‘Siri’ if you’re an Apple): a silent slave sat in the corner of your living room, ready to fulfil your every wish: Alexa, order me a pizza/call me a taxi/play the new Skating Polly album. Undeniably useful, but definitely a bit unsettling too. ‘ChatGPT’ will be gunning for my job soon! Why pay a human being to write magazine articles when you can just download an app that responds to requests like, ‘write me a two-thousand word article on the Industrial Revolution’ with (yep, you guessed it) a two-thousand word article on the Industrial Revolution, in a matter of mere minutes and, to be honest, not half bad. And with jokes!


‘Youper’ is your online therapist, ready to help with all your emotional turmoils and anxieties. Ready to listen, whenever you need somebody to listen, and all for the fraction of the cost of a qualified and experienced, living, breathing therapist, with no chance at all of being short-changed with a 55-minute hour. It can even take you through guided meditation. So, is there really any necessity for the terror and paranoia that some of the more sensationalist elements of the ‘news’ media seem keen to stoke? I don’t really see why A.I.s would be interested in wiping us out. That would be like Alexa delivering a robot assassin to your door instead of your Kung Pao Chicken Feast. I don’t believe she has that in her, poor dear. A.I.s could take over all the tedious but essential jobs that nobody really wants to do anymore, leaving us free to do what we like with our lives, instead of wasting years paying off a mortgage. Now that’s evolution!

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