Opinion: Artificial intelligence for dummies

If you’ve been following the news, you know that artificial intelligence is about to take over the world – if you’re reading this, it may already have happened.

Of course, the world is one big place that includes Hollywood, Congress, Whole Foods, Ivy League Colleges, McDonald’s Drive-In, Mar-a-Lago and The View. With artificial intelligence, do we need something like this?

I became a little concerned after reading a letter signed by 1,800 geniuses, including Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, that called for the tech community to impose a six-month moratorium on the development of advanced artificial intelligence projects since this one “great danger to society and humanity.” I fear that six months is not enough time to settle our affairs and celebrate one last Thanksgiving before the robots take over.

Even Stephen Hawking, who had one of history’s greatest minds, recognized the threat nine years ago when he said that AI “could mean the end of mankind.”

I got really scared when I saw a headline in the New York Times that said, “‘The Godfather of AI’ Warns of Imminent Danger.” Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneer of AI, “has left Google to freely express his concern that artificial intelligence can cause serious harm to the world.”

On the other hand, countless non-geniuses claim that artificial intelligence is the promise of the future and that it will save the education system, the healthcare system, the financial system, the political system, the fast food system and every other system in existence will collapse. The only systems that don’t collapse are casino gambling and cannabis.

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Every day there are hundreds more articles by geeks swearing that artificial intelligence has cures for everything from cancer, acne and prostate problems to overpriced drugs, nuclear disarmament, cheap housing and pornography, not to mention grammar and punctuation. My wife is excited because she believes AI will do our gardening and clean the gutters.

If AI systems like ChatGPT can write flawless assignments for college students, imagine what they could do for the White House when it comes to inflation, the border crisis, energy costs, and climate change.

Let me tell a story about my personal encounters with artificial intelligence. Over the past semester, I’ve noticed that some of my students’ assignments were near-perfect, albeit a bit sterile and overloaded with adjectives. But who doesn’t love an adjective or two, or 222? They’re just as addictive as Lay’s potato chips used to be.

However, there was too much perfection. Not a single comma was out of place. This made me suspicious as the assignments were written by students who a few days earlier thought there were only two punctuation marks – the semicolon and the exclamation point.

Suddenly they were writing more compound sentences than William Faulkner and had a larger vocabulary than all 3,194 pages in Webster’s New International Dictionary (second edition).

My first reaction was to sprain my shoulder and pat myself on the back for the great job I had done as a teacher. Then I realized something was wrong.

With the help of my son-in-law, who teaches English and literature, I found out that the real author is ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot that talks to you and writes essays, emails, code, and pasta recipes with or without bolognese sauce. You tell him what you want and Chatty will do the rest.

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After we ran the assignments through a program that recognizes AI-generated work, I learned there was a 99 percent chance that they were actually authored by a sinister computer likely called HAL. Do you remember him from 2001 A Space Odyssey? He attempted to kill all of the astronauts but eventually begged for forgiveness, saying, “I know I’ve made some very bad decisions lately, but I can assure you my work will go back to normal.” This is the kind of system we need because it can learn from its mistakes.

Because of this, the New York and Los Angeles public school systems have banned ChatGPT, and teachers are returning to pen and paper to ensure children turn in original work.

ChatGPT could write this column better than me, but you might not get all the clever clichés and goofy humor.

What students don’t realize is that the same artificial intelligence that does their homework will one day do their homework. Musicians and rappers are even worried because artificial intelligence can mimic their style and write better verses. Bob Dylan, Drake or Jay-Z are not necessary. The good news is you don’t have to pay a thousand dollars to see Taylor Swift.

One last thought. I want to assure you, Honor of the Boy Scouts, that this column was not written by artificial intelligence. It was written by imperfect human intelligence. To prove it, I’ve included a few grammatical errors in case my editor decides to run this through a recognition engine.

One last thought. Experts say we don’t have to worry about artificial intelligence taking over the world when we have ethical and honest programmers developing the systems. Unfortunately, ethics and honesty are in short supply these days.

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One final thought: please don’t email me saying the only thing that can save America is artificial intelligence…because human intelligence just isn’t enough.

Former Stamford attorney and Greenwich Time editor Joe Pisani can be reached at [email protected].