In late 2022, an event took place that many have since likened to the explosion of the first atomic bomb in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Maybe the analogy was due to the impending release of the Christopher Nolan film Oppenheimer, but the Promethean reference seems justified. ChatGPT 3 exploded onto the scene in November 2022 and by January of 2023 captured the imaginations – and fears – of a public that increasingly felt like it was living in a science-fiction novel
Academics understood the Impact these generative language models would have on their work early on. Plagiarism has always been a struggle at colleges and universities, but these AI bots amplified these concerns. One, the technology made it even easier to generate work that isn’t one zone. Two, there is the definitional issue that borrowing language from an AI bot is not plagiarism because you’re not stealing the words and ideas from another human being.
The impact on education is a story that is still unfolding. It’s interesting to note that ChatGPT usage dropped during the summer, indicating that there were a lot of student users of the application.But that concern now seems minor compared to other emerging implications.
What is even more interesting to me is the idea of being able to automate ourselves. In a discussion with Jack Wang of Queensland University and Christina Inge from Harvard and Brandies universities, my co-host Jodah Jensen and I began to touch on this concept.
As a marketing professional, Christina shared that she had already begun using a customized chat bot to generate marketing text in her writing voice. Afterward, I became curious about this use of the technology and quickly discovered that folks are moving way beyond just having bots automate their writing.
Now I’m not as old and out of touch as my kid sometimes thinks I am. I’ve been very much aware of the impact of AI on the generation of artistic products like photography and visual art. And I am also very aware of the impact on video generation and editing, especially its impacts on the special effects industry.
But I guess what surprised me was how easily it has become to create a fictional character using all these AI technologies and deploy them online as a real person.
Now we have all been warned about the dangers of deep fakes by now. Luckily we have not experienced a mass hoax event due to a fake video of a political leader saying something misinformed or dangerous. Our real political leaders seem to be doing that well enough on their own without the help of artificial intelligence.
But this does make me wonder about the possibility of automating ourselves. Many of us who work at busy jobs often lament the fact that we cannot clone ourselves. However, many of these artificial intelligence tools offer us the possibility of at least digitally cloning ourselves.
Granted, I think we would all appreciate the productivity this would produce. I could see a day when we will all have virtual assistants that can help us respond to email messages, post on social media, write blog posts, compose love letters in the style of Cyrano de Bergerac, and automatically send out birthday wishes to all of our friends and families - on time!
But there are also significant dangers. Of course, there is the issue of authenticity. Will we all just become cynical and delete peoples messages when we think they are just automatically generated by an AI assistant? There’s no doubt that will happen. When aYouTuber who created an AI generated influencer found that people stopped interacting with her videos once they figured out she was just a chat bot. And how many friend requests have you rejected on Facebook and Instagram because you suspected they were a bot?
Yet, what most concerns me is the information pollution this will produce on the Internet.
At no time in history has humanity managed to produce more content - writing, video, photography, art, audio, and more. And as we know, quantity does not equal quality. Often, the more you produce, the lower the quality becomes. Look no further than the manufacturing sector to see the evidence. Nobody’s going to argue that a cheap rocking chair at Target is going to be the same quality as a finely crafted chair sold in an Amish shop.
This proliferation of content has made attention an even more valuable commodity than gold. There seems like there’s an ever increasing abundance of content but a decreasing amount of attention to focus on it. How many Youtubers and Podcasters crank out episode after episode for a handful of viewers? Not criticizing here because my own podcast is in the same boat. But that’s the reality.
So as we continue on this co-evolutionarily journey with artificial intelligence, we need to keep in mind the impact that these productivity tools will have on the information ecosystem. Human beings can produce some amazingly beautiful things like the Sistine chapel, the Eiffel tower, and the Roman Colosseum. But we can also produce a lot of garbage – plastic islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean., barges full of waste floating off the shores of major cities, and miles of characterless suburban tract homes.
We have spent a lot of time raising awareness about the impact of pollution on the environment over the last four decades. Now with the rise of artificial intelligence, we need to raise awareness about the dangers of information and content pollution. As the raging fires, strange hurricanes, and other natural disasters we’ve been experiencing should’ve taught us, environmental pollution is impacting our ability to live. And information pollution will have the same impact on our ability to think and it makes sense of our increasingly complex world - which will potentially produce equally dire outcomes as flash flooding in the deserts of southern California.
You can listen to the full episode on the following platforms.
YouTube - https://youtu.be/A3t7hTF2jbY
Apple podcasts: https://lnkd.in/gGkRDzMz
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