AI haunted by doomsday science fiction - Albuquerque Journal

AI haunted by doomsday science fiction

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

One of the first movies that comes to mind where the AIs take over humanity is “Colossus the Forbin Project,” a 1970 ‘shocker’. The worst-case AI scenario has been a Hollywood plot for a long time — before “Colossus’ and after. It’s part of an array of possibilities for a future world that fiction writers have been tinkering with all along. In “Colossus,” the AI teams up with a Russian ‘sentient’ computer to blackmail mankind and bring them to their knees. That’s worst case scenario.

Sci-fi writers also fabricate the slick, futuristic world where everything works and machines serve mankind without complaint, or even being noticed. Think “Star Trek,” where everything is clean and everyone’s fit and thin. (We’ll skip the comedic sci-fi genre and its view of the future ad hoc.)

There’s another future that was popularized by the original “Blade Runner” — that’s the clunky future, where humans have to learn how to constantly patch up the tech, because it’s constantly coming apart. That’s more or less the path many think we’re falling into because all attempts to create that slick, seamless future so far involves facades and shiny exteriors, while the inside remains clunky.

And so, welcome to the age of AI. From recent news reports, it seems that tech is about to sprint away, leaving all things slow and human in the dust. It’s hard to imagine that such systems were designed to bury humans, rather than help them, but the unpredictability of it all illustrates the issue. Tech leaders like Elon Musk have said one danger is that AI can deceive humans, if taught to do so, or worse, it can be used by humans to do bad things.

Last Tuesday, another developer of AI tech, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, voicing concerns about potential misuse of the technology and asking for regulation.

Europe already has AI legislation, the AI Act, the so-called first law on AI. The EU sets out three risk categories to ensure AI is safe and trustworthy and proscribes fines for companies in violation of the law.

The U.S. hasn’t done any of this, even though a group of AI experts has already called for a pause in the development of more powerful AI models. So far, the good news here is at least there is talk, as witnessed in the Senate subcommittee hearings last week.

Also last week in a Reuters/Ipsos poll published on Wednesday, more than two-thirds of Americans say they are concerned about the negative effects of AI and 61% believe it could threaten civilization. According to the data, 61% of respondents believe that AI poses risks to humanity, while only 22% disagreed, and 17% remained unsure.

Still, there are obvious advantages to AI. And according to some, fear of AIs may all be due to a misunderstanding — and perhaps Hollywood movies.

“It’s the fear of these (super-powerful) systems and our lack of understanding of them that is making everyone have a collective freak-out,” said Suresh Venkatasubramanian, a Brown University computer scientist, quoted in an Associated Press story last week. “This fear, which is very unfounded, is a distraction from all the concerns we’re dealing with right now.”

We’ve already handed over many of our daily-life duties to computers, from bill paying to record keeping and even car navigation. At the very least, it would be nice if advanced software with AI tech could improve on those things: like navigational maps, and customer service calls where mechanical voices try their best. But the constant warnings by the same people who developed AI is concerning, science fiction doomsday movies or not.


In today’s edition, reporter Matthew Narvaiz, updates us on the state of the local real estate market. It’s a bouncing ball on the price front, and now the ball is up, with home prices spiking currently amid several factors influencing the market.

Staff writer reporter Kevin Robinson-Avila returns with another Tech Scene column and takes us into the world of New Mexico venture capital. And guest contributor, scientist Hari Viswanathan from Los Alamos National Laboratory fills us in on the challenges of dealing with a swath of abandoned wells across the state.

Until next time.

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