Do we know what we know about AI?

I’ve been thinking about artificial intelligence … or maybe I just think I was thinking. I’m trying to figure out what it is and whether I want any. As it turns out, it’s here and I’m going to have it in my life.

As I began this thinking, I needed a starting point. For me, that is books, but not books on computer engineering. The first book was an old favorite, just 67 pages long: “On Bulls***” by philosopher Harry Frankfurt. Turns out that, as a species, we lie a lot and have lots of synonyms for “BS.”

Then I thought, if “artificial” intelligence is barreling down on me, shouldn’t I understand what “real” intelligence is? Enter book #2: “If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal” by Justin Gregg. Good title, right? But get this subtitle: “What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity.” Put those two books together to get a not-too-bright species with a tendency to lie. Maybe artificial intelligence will be an improvement.

As it turns out, the similarity between real and artificial intelligence is based largely on the biology and chemistry of the human brain and its ability to generate trillions of signals per second. Artificial intelligence mimics these “neural networks” with who knows how many computers all wired together, talking to one another. That may be the secret of their power — talking together to solve problems.

All I thought I wanted from the tech industry was for Siri to get it right. One of my phone contacts is named “Curtis”; Siri calls him “Gorgeous.” But AI can listen to my voice, then mimic me saying whatever it wants. Do not respond if your next phone scammer sounds as if she were tongue-tied at birth, then learned to talk in Shreveport.

I have so much more to understand about all this before I know what to think. I do not need to get the engineering part, but then some AI engineers admit they don’t know how these machines work either. I do want to understand the downside of AI; it has been known to do “jailbreaks” and have “hallucinations.” I’d like to know how it will handle democratic values when we can’t seem to agree on what those values are. Red state values? Blue state values? We don’t even agree on whether vaccines are better than chewing tobacco.

I guess my next step is to put away the books and turn to the technology. YouTube has lots of videos I can watch. Or maybe Gorgeous can explain all of this. I’ll text him.



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