Home Edizioneed. 8 Don’t tell Sarah Connor

Don’t tell Sarah Connor

Artificial intelligence that causes itching

Written by Ermanno Ivone

Once upon a time, there was Sarah Connor, a young and unaware single mother (due to time-lag issues) of the future heroic leader John.

Sarah was a cheerful girl, integrated into her community and blazing in her ’80s style. Until the arrival of an insurrectionist partisan from 2029, a certain Sergeant Reese Tec-Com. DN38416, who, under the guise of protecting her from the danger of killer ‘machines’, impregnates her without even taking her out to dinner.

I wish I could say that in the end they all lived happily ever after. But the only one who was happy about putting another flag in the history of cinema was Arnold Schwarzenegger. All the others lived with anguish and tachycardia every single moment of their existences, terrified by the possibility that thinking (and shooting) machines could get the better of them and all of humanity.

The moral of this fable, which has become an episodic saga, is that robots always have red eyes (perhaps due to spending too much time in front of monitors) and also that the war of the future will be an unequal struggle between mankind and machines more intelligent than us.

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Perhaps we should have paid more attention to what the Terminator could teach us instead of the only incentive to do more bodybuilding.

This is also why we find ourselves today gorging ourselves with endless paranoia about the advancement of artificial intelligence (called Skynet in Sarah Connor’s fable) and at the same time we spend our days – without realising it – enjoying the countless benefits that this new era of artificial neural networks brings.

We are only at the beginning of a widespread exploitation of artificial intelligence (hereafter called ‘AI’ to feel more English-speaking), but people are already beginning to commit information terrorism, to censor, to make ‘Absolute Evil’ something that we don’t know and have no chance of knowing fully.

The lack of deep knowledge is due to the fact that, despite Predictive Analytics*, we don’t know how much longer we will manage to be the dominant and most sentient species on this pneumonia-sick and burnt-out Earth. Although in fact Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy said that ‘man always thought he was the most intelligent species on the planet, when in fact he was the third’ after dolphins and mice.

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* Predictive Analytics. It’s the process of using data to predict future outcomes. It uses data analysis, machine learning, artificial intelligence and statistical models to find patterns that might predict future behaviour. Organisations can use historical and current data to predict trends and behaviour in terms of seconds, days or years into the future with great accuracy. (Source: Google Cloud)

At the moment, we find ourselves with chatbots (software simulating human conversations) such as ChatGTP [recently obscured in Italy], which make teachers angry – since there are pupils who have their essays and term papers written by the software – and make copywriters pale at the impossibility of paying their mortgage installments – since with chatbots it is possible to generate accurate and reliable textual content to describe any kind of product/company with only a few inputs from human fingers on a keyboard.

Also the ill-treated (early) artists are trembling; they think they can be replaced by applications such as Midjourney, DALL-E or Stable Diffusion that generate images from a textual description (called a ‘prompt’) of what they want to be generated artificially. Artists, the real ones who interpret with a style, on the other hand, are aware that the future cannot be obstructed. It can be anticipated or it can be ridden.

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In short, many are fretting on their couches because the next five years/decade doesn’t look good because of Artificial Intelligence. Google is already patenting an emergency button to disable AI. It would need a lot of them though. We would then need an artificial intelligence that would allow us to press multiple deactivation buttons at the same time to prevent the Terminators from getting the better of us. We are already half-dependent on AI.

Without sinking into cosmic pessimism, AI will impact almost half of the activities that people perform in all sectors and almost all occupations will be affected by automation. Nevertheless, according to available data, only about 5 per cent of occupations could be completely replaced by artificial intelligence (Source: Goldman Sachs). On the other hand, it is estimated that by 2035 labour productivity thanks to AI will increase by 11-37% (European Parliament study). Furthermore, it is estimated that around 60 billion euros will be invested globally in artificial intelligence by 2025 (compared to 2 billions in 2016) in which, again according to forecasts, China will be the world’s leading player by 2030.

People like Bill Gates call for taxing even artificial intelligences as if they were workers – we have already entered the humanisation of machines – so that taxation can be used for training and the creation of new jobs.

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Others like Elon Musk instead sign petitions to slow down the competitive expansion of AI developments by suggesting a six-month break. Just long enough to ‘not risk’, in their words, ‘losing control of our civilisation with machines becoming smarter than humans’. A sabbatical for everyone on interrail would perhaps be even better.

Experts are already making assessments of the most in-demand professions. In addition to the easily conceivable and not always understandable ones such as Conversation Designer, Prompt Designer, Artificial Intelligence Etichist, Data Labeling Specialist, the Gardener also emerges. The ‘gardener of the future’ though.

Gardeners conversing with plants, considering that the capabilities of interaction will also be extended to other living species, hence also animals and plants. Innovative systems that, it is assumed, will allow simultaneous translations between human and plant language. Who knows how much we will hear about the shyness of bananas or the competitive stress of grapes. Even more interesting will be using our translation app to understand (finally) what those who know us best think about us: our pets. [I would sell my soul to the devil to know what my guinea pig thinks of me. Especially when I wake him up with affectionate requests from his endless afternoon power nap]

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Greengrocers’ dreams aside, the potential of man’s intentions to become more and more divine also has risks. Specifically, they concern the most understandable reduction of our privacy rights and the apocalyptic termination of free will (which has been held since genesis). Increasingly large amounts of data collection mean that more virtual observers are constantly present in our lives. It is difficult to give concrete weight to this daily intrusion. To help you, I will pass you a representative suggestion: imagine that you always have a gentleman with sunglasses (cycling model) behind your back who takes notes in a notebook of everything you do even when you think you are alone and singing in the shower.

Even worse is the risk of social manipulation through falsified information or routing dressed up as advice. The plurality of information, almost exclusively managed with AI, is creating the proclaimed ‘echo chambers’. That is, information or ideas that are amplified and reinforced by their repetition, whether fake or real.

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Humanity’s survival is not necessarily at risk from AI if we reflect and act on the only constructive and inclusive component at our disposal before thinking about controlling technology. The possibility of learning.
If we learn (and teach the younger generations) how to manage technology based on rules and directions of use we could treat the evolution of extra-human intelligences as a resource. As trees can be.
 Without necessarily creating yoga WhatsApp groups that involve embracing artificial intelligence or dancing around it after class.

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My very personal wish is to witness such an evolution of Artificial Intelligence as to allow it to build a consciousness. Not the human one, which is already far too overrated and often malfunctioning, but one that involves a subconsciousness of its own, giving it one of our greatest powers. The Dream. If AIs can dream and if they can effectively empathise with their environment (as well as with their housemates) they will be able to constantly measure themselves, like us, with emotions. This will make them more fragile and at the same time more capable of improving themselves.
 And if problems should arise in this regard, we should consider the creation of a new professional figure: the AI Psychologist from whom they will not be able to separate themselves except after years and years of analysis lying on comfortable servers designed by architects. Democratically, we too could take notes on what they do and think.

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