Is it time to be more wary of Artificial Intelligence? - Nick Freer
Computer scientist, author, and futurist Ray Kurzweil has said of technology: “Technological change is exponential… We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century - it will be more like 20,000 years of progress.”
It would be fair to say that Kurzweil is bullish on artificial intelligence (AI), remarking that: “By 2029, computers will have emotional intelligence and be as convincing as people”. If you like the movies, it’s a theme carefully and beautifully curated, albeit with terrifying consequences, in 2014 sci-fi thriller Ex Machina.
In recent weeks, AI has hit the global headlines like never before as the OpenAI boardroom debacle took a series of very public twists and turns in the press and via social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter).
OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman’s vision to create artificial general intelligence (AGI), computer software as intelligent as humans, had run into a wall in the form of a non-profit board, since disbanded, tasked with ensuring that OpenAI pursued AI research that was “safe and benefits all of humanity”.
The speed of OpenAI’s progress with its lead chatbot product ChatGPT has been nothing short of remarkable, but public concern exists around the pitfalls that could emerge with the advancement of AI. This sentiment doesn’t seem misplaced when you consider that the technology is forecast to be more transformational than the smartphone, or even the internet itself.
Armed with a PHD in artificial intelligence, University of Edinburgh alumnus Geoffrey Hinton’s storied career progressed to the extent that during his time at Google he became known as the Godfather of AI, pioneering the way for systems like present day ChatGPT.
However, reverberations abounded in Silicon Valley earlier this year when Hinton quit Google citing the “existential risk of what happens when these things get more intelligent than us”. Only this week, in a The New Yorker interview, Hinton opined that “it’s far too late” to stop artificial intelligence.
Unsurprisingly, AI was a principal topic of discussion at two tech conferences that took place in Edinburgh last week. FutureScot’s DigitalScotland 2023 event and DIGIT’s DIGITExpo both welcomed thousands of delegates from Scotland and beyond to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) to exchange latest thinking on all things tech.
Unfortunately, due to being under the weather, I was unable to attend, although I closely followed the content coming out from each gathering. In addition to running small to large scale tech events, I think it’s notable that DIGIT and FutureScot have become invaluable portals for technology news in Scotland.
Rewind a few years, and neither of these tech news sources existed. Arguably, their impact has been considerable. Without them, and in the absence of dedicated technology sector correspondents in the mainstream Scottish media, the stories of our tech companies, from startups to scaleups, would only be partially and occasionally told.
As in the business world, the media is a key component of the global tech scene, and it’s important for Scotland to have these players.
So, did I use ChatGPT to pull together any of this piece? My chatbot and I would prefer not to say.
Nick Freer is the founding director of corporate communications agency the Freer Consultancy
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