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The Robots Are Not Coming

The Robots Are Not Coming

Hello and good day!

A topic I find extremely interesting is the recent rapid development of artificial intelligence technology. Over the last couple of days, I've been listening to a presentation given by a MIT professor who is one of the world's leading experts on artificial intelligence.

His view is that there is a metaphorical race going on.

One of the participants in the race is the technology and the people developing it. The other participant in the race are the people who are required to regulate the technology to ensure that it does minimal harm to humanity.

In this professor's opinion, the race is a complete mismatch.

The technology is developing far too quickly for regulators to keep up. And given that reality, the professor believes that dire consequences to humanity are around the corner. His suggestion is a complete pause on the development of this technology until a system of oversite can be designed and implemented. I've been following this story for a while now.

The tipping point that has caused a lot of consternation is the invention of a highly intelligent chatbot called Chat GPT. The fourth version of this program has just been released and each new version is much more powerful than its predecessor.  

For example, there is a statistic on the Chat GPT website showing that the first version of Chat GPT scored in the 10th percentile on the bar exam. Version four scores in the 90th percentile. And the improvements are coming faster and faster all the time.  

The way it works is you simply type the bar exam question into the chat box and the machine answers automatically. It answers using information scraped from the internet. The computers have the entire internet at their disposal, and they are constantly absorbing more and more information.

They store what they've learned and distribute learned information across a vast network of machines that have been organized to process and make connections.

The worry is that these machines have the potential to be vastly more intelligent than human beings and they are eventually going to become sentient, meaning that they have the ability to set their own goals.

Right now, the computer's programmed goal is to provide the information we want them to provide. They are ordered to respond to our questions.   But in theory, there could come a time when the computer's goal is no longer to do the task that we are ordering it to do.

Maybe the computers could come up with their own goals.

Given their vast stores of knowledge and immense computing power, they would be experts at finding fast solutions. And if the solution requires wiping out humanity? Then what?

That is what this MIT expert is afraid of.

The one thing I've never been able to understand is how this doomsday scenario jumps out of the computer and into the real world. In the presentation the MIT professor pointed out that everything is connected to the internet.

For example, artificial intelligence computers could hack the system that sets off nuclear weapons. One way or another, those systems are connected to the internet.

Or the machines could persuade humans to carry out destructive acts in the real world. There are obviously a lot of people in the world willing to do harm if given a plan and the means. We hear about mass shootings almost every day.

The other concern is that robots and artificial intelligence are going to take away all human work, thereby leaving humans as nothing more than decadent, purposeless sloths who live a shallow meaningless existence.

To this second point I'd say that robots and artificial intelligence really can't do everything needed to make a truly fantastic chocolate.

This is one area where human reasoning, creativity, judgement, and physiology are needed. There are so many examples of things that robots will never be able to do in the process of bringing fine chocolate into existence.

It is hard to choose just one.

But let's imagine the scenario of a self-driving car driving along muddy jungle roads and coming across a deep, soft rut that can't be driven across. The car sees this and decides that it can go no further.

Now what?

In many cases, our team will leave the car behind and proceed along the road by foot. Once they reach the farm, they inform the farmer of the situation, and the farmer starts loading cacao on the backs of animals, for example donkeys, who then walk the cacao back out to where the vehicles are parked, on the dry side of the rut.

This might happen on dozens of farms per day. Each road requires a judgement call.

For a robot equipped with artificial intelligence to replace humans in this task would require a qualitatively different type of information than what is available on the internet. Reading text wouldn't make you smart enough to navigate this situation. Only experience doing it makes you smart enough.

Additionally, every member on our team would have to be replaced by a robot, so would all the cacao farmers, and so would all the donkeys. And this is just one very, very small part of the process.

Every single step would have to be worked out, specialized machines built, and computers that can analyze environmental data, not just text, would have to be created.

If you keep tugging on the thread of chocolate, robots, and artificial intelligence, I believe that you start to run up against some insuperable objections to the doomsday scenario. The act of making chocolate is a very, very miniscule part of the totality of human activity.

Where the computers will be very strong and will certainly be smarter than humans is in endeavors that can be digitized. But please recall that the digitization of society is a recent phenomenon. It has only gathered steam in the last three decades.

The best parts of life still occur in the non-digital realm.

A text that says I love you is nothing compared to telling a person you love them face to face and giving them a hug. Do you want to hug your kid or a robot who acts like a kid?

I certainly wouldn't give a free hot chocolate to a robot in our chocolate shop. And I would never use a chat bot to write these emails.That would deny me the pleasure of using my brain.

To conclude, here is what I think it comes down to.

Do humans primarily exist in a digital or physical world? Given how much time we all spend attached to smart phones and computers, it may feel that we live in a digital world.

But we don't.

The stuff that keeps us alive comes out of the earth. It has to be grown, mined, cultivated, engineered, built, and distributed across impressive distances.

Chatbots can't do this stuff. And the more we all live in a way that can't be digitized, the more we live in the real, physical world, the less of a threat robots and artificial intelligence will present.

Thank you so much for giving me a moment of your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!