“It will either be the best thing that’s ever happened to us, or it will be the worst thing. If we’re not careful, it very well may be the last thing.” – That somewhat ominous warning about artificial intelligence from the late, great Stephen Hawking would – not so long ago – have been the stuff of science-fiction novels. Now, we’re seeing AI being incorporated into even the most everyday situations, and people are – quite rightly – asking questions, albeit often misguided ones, or on the other hand, are completely failing to appreciate just how deeply AI is becoming embedded into our daily lives.
Some of the concerns raised are a little iffy… AI-enabled self-driving cars that will target pensioners as acceptable colateral damage in the case of an accident – seriously! Through to the rather-more concerning questions raised over deep-fakes, use of which we’ve already seen in the arena of propoganda in the Ukraine war, and the more insidious application of AI as an unseen market force and social manipulation tool.
AI can be fun too! However, I think we’re rapidly reaching the equivalent of the VR uncanny valley when it comes to the outcomes and products of AI – a point at which we can’t help but feel a sense of unease and be just a little disturbed when AI is almost, but not quite, indistinguishable from the real thing, or even crosses the line to become more ‘real’ than reality. And as AI becomes ever-more ‘intelligent’, it becomes increasingly more difficult to identify what’s real and what’s not.
Let’s take Blenderbot.ai – (Brits… You’ll have to be sneaky and speak with an American accent to try it!) Meta’s prototype chatbot which, if you spend some time in conversation with it, can be so convincing that it could easily, for those not on their guard, pass the Turing Test. Which is fine, if you know you’re talking to a bot, but could be considered pretty dubious if you didn’t. We have AI imaging tools too, such as Remini, which can take your old Polaroid snapshots and freshen them up, as good as new. Well, maybe not that well – results can be a bit hit-and-miss, and there’s nothing it does that can’t be achieved much better in Photoshop, but it’s quick, easy and requires no skills whatsoever, and that – in a nutshell – is what AI is particularly good at.
It’s possible for the completely artistically-challenged (eg. me) to take a boring image, feed it into Google’s Deep Dream Generator, and come out with something that Dali would be proud of. Alternatively, if you’re not an insomniac and don’t have hours of free time to waste, there are a myriad of AI image creators, freely available on the web, that can produce stunning results… You don’t even need a starting image, just type in some random words, or a description, and the AI does the rest. Some of the outcomes are uncannily good and you’d swear there was an intelligence behind them. Some, like my efforts below, are the stuff of nightmares, but I’m just going to blame the machine for it!
So, where is the line in the sand drawn? Can we call an image, generated by an AI from a random string of words, art? And who is the artist? Does it even matter? What about AI-generated music? You can’t help wondering what’s next – AI created recipes? (Although I really do like the idea of Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Cake, not so sure about Artichoke Gelatin Dogs though!)
Now, you may have noticed that I can be more than a little cyberpunk. AI is right up there on my list of ‘Things That Have To Be Played With’, and if I can combine that with SL, then obviously it’s something that has to be done. Not that AI – or the semblance of it – hasn’t been knocking around inworld for years, it’s just that I hadn’t quite got around to it, on the basis that I was convinced it would be horribly complex and, well, I can be a bit lazy! I eventually, inevitably did get to grips with it though, and for the last few months my AI-alter-ego, Melody Tempest, has been hanging around on my parcel, mugging passers-by and merrily informing anybody who happens to be daft enough to engage with her that she enjoys picking her nose, and that cabbages are awesome!
In terms of actual ‘intelligence’, she doesn’t score particularly highly on the MENSA scale, but – perhaps more worryingly – I’ve been told that her character does quite accurately replicate my own. That was never intended, and I have no idea how it’s possible, but I do find it quite disturbing that my own AI seems to know me at least as well as my friends do. However, very soon – provided I can overcome the laziness thing – I intend to give her a full oil-change and service, along with significantly upgrading her ‘brain’. Hopefully, that will make her a little less predictable, and a lot more interesting.
My biggest worry is that people will want to talk to her more than me!
Then again, for all you know, it might be me who’s been the AI, all along!
Man made machines to control the days
Now machines control while the man obeys
A second generation a generation lost
While machines prepare for the holocaust
A Flock Of Seagulls – Man Made