Humans versus AI


By David Lindeman

Contributing columnist

I have come to believe that the human race has a death wish.

This became clear recently when a group of artificial intelligence experts, many of whom were the founding fathers of the industry, warned that AI could lead to the extinction of the human race.

You would have thought they might have considered this before they opened the box.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t be surprised. We have been trying to kill ourselves off since the very beginning. It’s just that for thousands of years we used things like swords and spears and bows and arrows. It was messy and painful, but you can only kill so many people with things like that.

But in the last 100 years, we have started to get really serious about it.

It started with World War I and poison gas. A lot of people thought World War I was the end of everything; what with machine guns and planes, and most of all, poison gas. That gas could get out of control and who knew what would happen? Well, we managed to survive that one.

Then right after the war there was the Spanish flu epidemic, just to remind us we weren’t actually in charge of things.

But that was nothing compared to World War II. The really smart guys on our side won the race to develop the nuclear bomb, which was a good thing because if the Nazis got there first they would have had no qualms about dropping it on us. Then again, once we figured it out, we had no qualms about dropping it, either. That started the nuclear arms race and the Cold War and the realization there were enough atomic weapons on the planet to blow us all into little bits.

I was a kid then and thought I would be safe in Troy, Ohio, until one of my older brothers burst my balloon.

“Hah,” he said. “The first thing the Russians will hit is Wright-Patterson. We’ll be vaporized in a second.” Big brothers are good for things like that.

Then one day we looked around and realized all the great products the smart guys had dreamed up had a lot of bad side effects – oil spills and pollution and smog. We paid the smart guys to come up with ways to fix their mistakes.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Russians had a nuclear power plant blow up and almost melted us all buy accident.

Then the Soviet Union self-destructed and the Cold War was over – just in time for the really smart guys to say, “Remember all those great inventions we thought up? Cars and power plants, stuff like that? They’re turning Earth into a giant greenhouse and we’re all going to die” This provided job security for them since they got all those research grants to fix their original miscalculations. Things are still heating up but this is kind of a slow way to kill yourself so nobody really seems to get too upset about it.

Then there was COVID, just to show us all we really aren’t in control of everything.

Now it’s the really smart AI guys telling us that we’re going to end up like some bad science fiction book. Somewhere along the line, some piece of rogue AI is going to see a human abusing a toaster and take revenge on us. He will launch a bunch of nuclear missiles or blow up a few nuclear plants or release a new batch of COVID or maybe even resort to poison gas. Or maybe AI will invent some new kind of destructive device, although I hardly think it can be as efficient at it as we humans have been.

In fact, now that I think about it, maybe this artificial intelligence thing might not be so bad, after all. It can hardly have a worse track record than we have managed to put together ourselves. Maybe AI won’t go all robot revenge on us. Just to be safe, though, I’m going to be nice to my toaster.

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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