Just a few steps

Just a few steps

And yet the steps got bigger very quickly.

I feel privileged that I grew up on a world of black and white TV’s which soon became colour. Soon they were followed by home computers what a whopping 48k of RAM and a dizzying array of 16 colours! For comparison my next computer will have at least 32GB of RAM which is 666,666 times bigger. (No I didn’t make that up and yes it sounds creepy!)

Each year we make strides into the next directions for humanity (for better or worse) but particularly in technology this is so evident. I’m sure there are a few push button phones about but we mainly use touch screens. Who has a landline? Wait what…..for your fax…?..???

Pretty much every technological advancement we have made gets swept under the rug of acceptance and is taken for granted as soon as the ink dries.

A person’s reach should never exceed their grasp.

So the new kid on the block is AI. What’s the big deal? Is it because the length of the stride has gotten so big so quickly that our only appreciation that comes from it is based on the movies? 2001: A Space Odyssey comes to mind as one of the first. Ironic isn’t it that the line “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that” is set over two decades ago when we were just getting over Napster and MySpace.

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that,” he calmly intones to Dr David Bowman who is locked out of the spacecraft. Hal has just wreaked mass murder upon four of Bowman’s colleagues and intends to doom him, too, to a slow death by asphyxiation. But with a passive-aggressive eloquence worthy of Hannibal Lecter, he apologises for his violence with intimacy (“Dave”) and impeccable manners.


Feeding the machine ~ aka Machine Learning

This may be tongue in cheek but all of those captchas we have been filling out are a great learning tool for AI to identify objects. For example they could identify a beached whale, or find a missing person or target a cruise missile at a traffic light……fun things like that.

Right now there is talk about suspending development in AI for us to get our heads around the social and other impacts that it might bring. There is even talk about making students go back to paper based learning.

Another Path

When you hit a road block in your work do you go into the archives? Do you open a filing cabinet? Use your stocks of microfiche? Or perhaps Google it?

Do you use long division on paper or Excel/an electronic calculator?

If you are a fan of paper then good for you. Many of us prefer to solve the problem and move on because as they say “life’s too short”. We take for granted that in a healthy technological ecosystem that these are just tools we rely on. Just tools.

If we take away the computer for an exam and replace it with crayons why don’t we take away the calculators too? Of course then we can lament that no graduate has any form of workplace skills and blame them for it.

Or alternately we can use AI for everyday tasks. Some of us do already. My 75YO Mother yells out “Hey Google” all the time and it scares the crap out of me (I skipped that part – the voice activated assistant) but I’ve shown her and her friends some neat ways of using AI – even just as a starting point for some of their interests.

From a professional point of view much of the AI I have used cannot – yet – replace our work because it just does not have the ability to process years of domain knowledge and apply it to an extensive project or subject. What I am saying is that it takes a great deal to understand a topic than to ask AI a question. Education is safe in this regard because whilst AI can generate the answers to a student’s assessment to asses if the student understands them is another matter.

Maybe the answer doesn’t lie in holding AI back but changing how we asses knowledge in people so they can use AI and not be replaced by it. If we can take the brakes off AI perhaps we can see some huge social, medical and political benefits quicker. But I guess we could put the genie back in the bottle….

put the genie back in the bottle

To attempt to revert a situation to how it formerly existed by containing, limiting, or repressing information, ideas, advancements, etc., that have become commonplace or public knowledge. Almost always used in the negative to denote the impossibility of such an attempt.