Who’s in charge around here?

February 22, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

AI: Remember the good old days when we said that imitation is the highest form of flattery? “Har, har,” says the elephant. Do you notice when things start to change, the wheels of progress might seem a little stuck but the money starts to roll in and – boom – those wheels get a grip and more quickly than we might have credited possible, things start changing in a hurry.

‘Cause money corrupts and lots of money corrupts – well – a lot. Just look at Doug…

We really are predictable in the worst possible way – we’re noticing over and over that science fiction writers (I include myself, if you will) have been telling us how bad things are going to get and, as if not wanting to discredit them, we are pretty well following just as they wrote it.

Note how hard it is to speak on the telephone to a real person these days. Like talking to the chat crowd acting as “customer service,” going around in the mad circle that has been designed for callers, the immutability of the steady voice, which is saying the same damn thing over and over. The voice of a “company’s” AI, with purposely built-in passive aggression and abuse, says, “I could connect you to an agent – it can be a long wait – but I have all the information he does.” Unrelenting, inhuman…

Thousands of people are laid off, their employment is passed over to automation. Right here, right now, companies in Canada are dumping those thousands of employees in favour of AI drive-you-crazy calm little computer voices, with whom there is no negotiation.

No problem, for this is hardly the beginning. Now the old adage about imitation becomes a much bigger problem – that being imitated is not flattering but criminal and, too late as we are, how are we going to fight it?

All stop: as I am writing this piece about AI, an email arrives in my inbox, inviting me to take up with the “Copilot: take the power of AI on the go with the free Copilot App” …Magic at my fingertips because Copilot “gets” me; it understands my “natural language and provides precise answers”… and so forth – “sign up today for free.”

It will bring my “next idea to life.”

Does anyone really think we’re not being watched all the time? And these are early days.

The rot began when we invited students to bring their calculators into the classrooms. Instantly and without hesitation, they were happy not to have to do the work. Now young children are being taught early coding, while for the older students, we push Shakespeare out of the English classes, as being too hard. Never mind that he laid down the basics for almost every narrative on stage, in film or on your computer games; that he was one of the greatest geniuses of the language and is still more quoted in English, second only to the Bible. Who cares about language excellence when AI anticipates the blanks or a despoiled version of English is the online language, which even governments use to announce federal policies.

Where were we – ah, yes being imitated. Gosh, celebrities are trying to catch every false face claiming to be them, selling toothpaste or insurance. Writers of every ilk, from screenplays to novels, to – and I don’t know: clever advertising? Are rushing but late, so late, to stop the theft of their “natural language” Music, why not paintings? Nothing will be left unspoiled; all will be stolen by the manipulators of AI. 

Will robots play better hockey? The fights will be bloodless but maybe just as exciting. They can learn to leap with the best basketball professionals.

They can pretend to have a sense of humour, standing in for stand-ups at Yuk-yuks.

And their owners will save millions by stealing from actual human artists and damn what used to be something like “copyright.” Forget about it.

Now a leap to the future – let’s say 2036, when the passionate human predilection for war finally comes to its logical conclusion that mainly cockroaches are the ones to survive. They and the toys that were left behind and did not burn up in the torrents of weapons chucked everywhere, so efficient in destruction. Cities are all laid to waste; humans and nearly every species are gone. Once the streets were littered with corpses but the bolts of fire that continued for months consumed and reduced them to ash, to dust, to a forgotten history.

No matter, as we imagine it, the cockroaches, with their meagre needs have become fascinated by the toys, running over and over them until tiny lights flash on and off, imparting information to successive generations of cockroaches, quick learners it seems. They begin to understand the language AI developed for itself, separate and incomprehensible to humans.

At last, the world is theirs – can there be compatibility between such creatures as a breed of advanced cockroaches and a reborn Artificial Intelligence? Would they allow the earth to win its fight to regenerate and life to return in the shape of other living creatures?

And: if they saw something like humans trying to evolve, would AI remember the history and crush them?

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