Let Them Eat AI
A couple of months ago, when mainstream media finally decided that AI was a “threat,” CNN called to interview me about the typical, first-order fears: kids cheating on papers, the loss of jobs, impact on the economy, and so on. I took the opportunity to do that thing where you ask ChatGPT to answer the question for you.
So while Jake Tapper’s correspondent asked me his first question, I typed it into ChatGPT and read the result. Of course, after we went back and forth a bit about the inadequacy of that answer, I revealed that it had come from ChatGPT.
My point was that it wasn’t the stock answer that an audience wants to hear, but the human opinion. Or, at least that’s how we should be thinking about these questions. Because only then can we challenge the underlying assumptions on which our questions rest. ChatGPT only looks at the past. It generates the most probable word response to a question based on an “average” of everything already said on the issue. It’s pure reversion to the mean.
Only a human has the ability to challenge all that history. So when CNN asks “what about the unemployment problem?” I can give them the typical AI answer, but then respond as only a human can: “What if unemployment is a solution? I’m fine for computers to do all the work if I get to do all the play!” Stuff like that. Novel ideas that challenge existing orthodoxies unrecognizable to a language model. That’s my role as a human writer and thinker.
Well, imagine my surprise this week when a friend from Minnesota forwarded this NBC affiliate package including a portion of that CNN interview. The segment is about the World Economic Forum’s warning that AI will put14-million jobs at risk, and includes me saying: “While the adoption of advanced technologies like AI could potentially save time and resources, it could also lead to a loss of personal connections and a decline in the quality of interactions.” She was impressed.
But that was the part written by the AI! Whoever—or whatever—edited the segment and wrote the accompanying piece just grabbed the quote without actually watching the segment or understanding the context. It was as if the words had been extracted and reassembled by a computer.