Artificial Intelligence, will it make us all redundant? Mark Harrison

14th Jul 2023

I thought long and hard about writing this as I’ve never been a bandwagon jumper and the press is obsessed with Artificial Intelligence, largely because no one knows what might be possible which gives license to endless speculation, nothing is too frivolous.

How do we control it? Will it take all our jobs? Will it destroy the atmosphere to rid itself of troublesome humans?

We certainly have to keep a close eye on the effects of something that is programmed to grow exponentially indeed explosively. I use the word exponentially in its true form not the way misused by entrepreneurs for years to describe just high growth.

If you want an example of what true exponential growth looks like, you don’t have to go very far back. At the start of the pandemic, we saw the briefings every day and at first it all seemed a little surreal as not many people were becoming ill or dying, but quickly within a month it was hundreds within another month it was thousands, that’s what exponential looks like.

AI only came into the public consciousness in November last year, 8 short months ago, and now it is daily headline news with equal or indeed higher billing than the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis.

Earlier this year,  Sam Altman the CEO of Open AI addressed the US Senate amid fears of unregulated AI tearing out of control and destroying all of our lives and certainly our current economic models. There is too little time being spent thinking about the possible benefits, accelerating research in the search for a cure for Cancer or Alzheimer’s as examples of good things it could potentially help us with.

If we stop development, pull the handbrake, and heavily regulate AI, there is only one thing I can guarantee you, and that is the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans and various other states that may or may not mean us harm won’t.

We have to go with it and use it only where we feel it benefits the greater good. Progress, however quick it comes has happened before and we survived and came out of the initial downturn in a better place than before.

I grew up in the North East in the 70s, when the mines, steel works, and shipyards were all closing down. It was a hard time and many of my generation were left behind and didn’t recover. I chose to leave and seek experience elsewhere, when I returned to the North East 10 years ago it has been transformed beyond all recognition and only in a good way.

This cycle of decline and renewal of economies has always happened, there was a time it took centuries for meaningful change to happen, and technology has just shortened these cycles.

So, do I think AI will make us all obsolete? Firstly, and foremostly, only if we let it. The development of AI and the powerful Machine Learning Models that drive it has a limitation, the available processing power and the available electricity to drive the servers it resides on, the first buffer to the “rise of the machines”.

We humans always have control, much as the fictional all-powerful humanity exterminating machines “The Daleks” could be defeated by the humble staircase, if AI spins out of control, we have the means to stop it. Every server needs a humble kettle lead to power it up and keep it running, a few brave men and or women can simply pull the plug and it will all seem like a lame version of a classic Schwarzenegger flic.

A bigger threat to humanity is, in my opinion, Social Media and the havoc it has wreaked on and continues to wreak on the fabric of society. Now there is something that needs regulating and is probably already at the point where we should just shut it down. Life really was better in the old days of 2006, the collective sigh of relief that would be heard around the world would be deafening.

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