The current obsession with artificial intelligence (AI) is a reflection of the competence level of those who are at the forefront of this rapidly advancing field. Headlines range from discussions on mitigating the risks of AI leading to human extinction, to promises of a world free from diseases like cancer, and boundless prosperity. The potential impacts of AI are vast, with claims of eliminating the need for professions such as lawyers, doctors, truck drivers, and Hollywood screenwriters. AI is already prevalent, often in stealth mode, and excels in various surveillance capabilities.
MIT Sloan Executive Education boldly states that the hype surrounding innovative AI technologies is here to stay, emphasizing the importance of capitalizing on this trend. On the other hand, the Washington Post warns of the presence of bizarre AI-generated products in stores and provides advice on how to avoid them. The existence of experts in generative AI and deep fakes is acknowledged, but it is important to distinguish between copying original art or plagiarizing a book and the more alarming act of impersonation or playing God.
What exactly is AI? This question becomes pertinent when considering whether to embrace or fear its potential consequences. Capitalizing on something that could either lead to humankind’s extinction (as believed by 67% of those active in AI) or result in a utopian paradise requires a level of audacity beyond petty thievery. New AI ventures are projected to generate trillions of dollars, despite being nothing more than a large-scale rehashing of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The individuals spearheading these ventures are like the weavers of the invisible suit, leveraging extensive data processing capabilities to create the illusion of intelligence without true understanding.
The prevailing focus on quantifying everything and measuring without comprehension, substituting genuine scientific understanding, has overshadowed the meaning behind the data being generated. The absence of scientific foundations within AI explains the ambition for “artificial general intelligence” (AGI). Proponents of AGI claim that it will do more than just win chess matches or interpret medical images. Instead, they promise an all-encompassing intelligence capable of tasks such as describing protein folding, curing toenail fungus, speculating in the stock market, advising governments, performing surgery, and ultimately saving humanity. However, the looming question is at what cost will this salvation come? If this does not resemble a Faustian bargain, then none could qualify.
Taking a step back, it is crucial to acknowledge Howard Gardner’s findings from 1983, where he identified various types of “intelligence” in his work “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” Empirical observations of human performance indicate that the intelligence of a football player, a soprano, a painter, an investor, or even a robotic shoe maker differs from that of a programmer. Furthermore, Yann LeCun, the chief AI scientist at Meta, emphasizes that humans do not require exposure to a trillion words to attain intelligence. Thinking about children serves as a reminder that the path to intelligence does not necessarily rely on vast amounts of data.
In conclusion, the prevailing infatuation with AI reflects the competence level of those leading the field. The potential capabilities of AI range from transformative advancements to existential threats. The focus on data and quantification has overshadowed the meaning behind the measurements. The promises of AGI as an all-encompassing intelligent being must be cautiously examined, as they come at a potentially significant cost. Additionally, recognizing the diversity of intelligence and its various manifestations is essential. Rather than relying on an unhealthy obsession with data, we should consider all aspects of human intelligence and the potential consequences of AI development.