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By Roberta Russell

A robot and a finger pointing at each other

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Text editing on stock image: Manuel Lopez.

Knowledge is power. Today, we can read just about any book ever published and hear any music. We have never had more access to what is known and what can be heard and seen. What has already happened and is presently unfolding is immediately available, literally before our eyes, to anyone with a computer and the desire to learn or be entertained.

The exponentially increasing power of artificial intelligence has captured my attention and I am thrilled by the importance of the task of understanding and reporting on its possible effects. OpenAI GPT-4 has extended my ability to retrieve information and even to learn complex concepts that would normally require a lot of motivation, or time-sapping calls to endless help lines, or visits to Apple’s stores. I can now simply make a written inquiry to OpenAI.

In preparation for this article, I asked AI, “How can AI make you smarter?” A neat one-page list with explanations complete with cautionary fact-checking advice appeared on my screen seconds later, inspiring me to proceed in a more organized way. There were seven points titled (my own experience and exposure reflect these benefits):

Information Retrieval

Learning Aid

Critical Thinking

Creativity Enhancement

Time Management

Language Skills

Staying Updated

Also in preparation, I researched AI on the internet and in books for many weeks, listened to copious and almost immediately-produced video interviews of and presentations by Sam Altman, CEO and originator of OpenAI and ChatGPT, and others in the vanguard of this life-changing wave of accomplishments. Altman is driven by a higher mission, which he depicted in a Bloomberg interview with Emily Chang. He is not doing this for money; he says he has enough and will make more money from his other investments, but his purpose now is more important.

Among the leaders from whom I have learned is Mo Gawdat, the former Chief Business Officer of Google [X]. His book, Scary Smart, The Future of Artificial Intelligence and How You Can Save Our World (2021), and his recent compelling youtube.com videos have made me aware that this is a turning point for the human population. We could be done in by our own greed and inability to come together and flourish as a truly unified world in which intelligence is dispensed in a way that is informed and fueled by the desire for a moral order, the only way that freedom can be achieved. So far, that has been an elusive goal. “The cement of society is not reason, but feeling, compassion and an innate revulsion against suffering…”—Political theory;: A conceptual analysis, (Dorsey series in political science), Joseph Samson Murphy.

According to Altman, artificial intelligence can become millions of times smarter than humans. In 1997, an IBM computer named Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov, a chess world-champion, for the first time. Then in 2015 the distributed version of AlphaGo defeated Fan Hui at Go, an even more complex game. It was the first time a computer beat a professional human player on a full-sized Go board without a handicap. No human has beat winning computers since. That’s because the artificial intelligence learns from itself by playing millions of games with itself, even with moves never made by a human!

One of the scariest scenarios circulating in the current narrative is that robots, fueled by self-replicating artificial intelligence, will decide that humans, with their greed and limited brain power, are superfluous. This is a widespread fear. But Altman has just returned from a trip around the world conferring with international leaders and experts in AI. He is being interviewed as a world ambassador. Perhaps he is!

Knowledge really is power. There is no going back. The genie is out of the bottle. If you would care to share your AI stories, let me know at rr3067@columbia.edu.

Roberta Russell is the founder of the World-Wide Calorie & Exercise Logging Group (www.permanentweightloss.org). She is also the author of “Report on Permanent Weight Loss, RD Laing & Me: Lessons in Love,” and “Report on Effective Psychotherapy: Legislative Testimony.”

www.robertarussell.com; russellk100@gmail.com.

©Roberta Russell, July 2, 2023, NYC

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