Elon Musk and Bill Gates on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and How to Understand it.
Ten years ago, I made a prediction that 2023 might be an end-times year because I saw a graph that showed robot intelligence would increase and become equal to human intelligence in that year. It was a scary thought.
Now here we are at the end of 2023 and it seems like AI has reached the levels of human intelligence in a good many ways. To open a conference in Switzerland called AI for good, a dark-haired young woman gave the keynote welcome address. She was a robot, one amongst several on stage. Her name was Sophia, and she was the world’s first robot artist. Yes, she can be seen holding a painting of a woman’s face that she created.
Sophia is famous for her ability to converse, her body movements, and facial expressions which all started in 2016. Sophia has been on talk shows as well as conferences. It seems weird, but Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to Sophia, which is a first, and maybe a harbinger of things to come.
I read that a sermon was preached in a cathedral in the UK. It wasn’t an Anglican priest who preached — it was a sermon prepared and preached by an AI system. The people who listened said it was pretty good, but lacked emotions.
A common fear is that we get a phone call from a friend who says he is pinched for funds and needs just another $100 to bridge the gap, and we offer to send a check to help out. Then, a week later we call the friend and discover he never asked us for money……the “person” on the phone was an AI system fake by a con-artist.
What is artificial intelligence?
Its closely connected to machine learning, which is when a computer gathers a lot of information (data). Let’s say your elderly father, who lives alone, punches a clock when he arrives home each day after work. The time and date are recorded automatically on a laptop computer. Further, the computer sorts the data, analyzes it, and even plots the results in graphs.
Now suppose you haven’t heard from your father in several days, and you can’t get him to pick up the phone one Wednesday evening. You become worried. Here’s where machine learning can help. You have a connection with the laptop, and you ask the computer to show you a graph of what times your dad comes home from work. You find a spread of times for Monday, then Tuesday, and on each day the times are distributed around 6 pm, as you expected.
But on Wednesdays, the return home times from many weeks are distributed around 9 pm. Apparently your dad goes somewhere else for supper, perhaps meets friends at a restaurant, before returning around 9 pm. Your anxiety is reduced. But the machine has done even more learning. It’s now 7 pm and you’ve been calling home since 6 pm. Should you keep calling, or wait until 9 pm? You discover a graph that shows the spread of times on Wednesdays and it shows your dad doesn’t get home until 8:45 pm at the earliest — another machine learning. This is useful, because you now know you don’t need to call your dad until 8:45 pm.
This is a very simple example of machine learning. AI is usually many times more complicated. For instance, suppose Sophia were asked why the dishwasher stopped working. Long before this, Sophia’s computer mind would have been trained (programmed) with hundreds or even thousands of pieces of data about why dishwashers stop working. So when asked the question, Sophia would interrogate all her data and select the most likely cause.
The role of Elon Musk.
An article appeared in Time Magazine recently (October 9, 2023) entitled The Control Key. It was about Elon Musk, one of the richest people in the world, and his fears about AI. One of those fears was that a nuclear war, or a collision with an asteroid, or AI, would end the world but humankind could be saved by one of Musk’s rockets that could carry people to Mars and safety.
Musk started his own AI teams to compete with OpenAI led by Sam Altman, who made the first commercial AI product called GPT-4. Musk founded Neuralink, led by his partner, that aims to plant microchips in human brains; Optimus, a human-like robot; and Dojo, a supercomputer that can use millions of videos to train a neural network to simulate a human brain.
Right now, the main competition is between OpenAI – Microsoft and DeepMind – Google. Musk companies are watching these closely. Musk is concerned that in the hands of Microsoft or Google, AI systems and chatbots could become indoctrinated by politics, or that these systems might turn hostile to the human species. In particular, Musk worried that chatbots could be trained to flood his new company Twitter with disinformation, biased reporting, and financial scams.
The fuel for AI is data.
The new AI chatbots are trained on massive amounts of information, such as billions of written (text) pages on the internet. Google and Microsoft with their search engines and emails have gushers of data to train these AI systems.
What could Musk contribute? One answer is the huge volume of written data in Twitter feeds – 500 million tweets posted each day which would be a great training field for chatbots.
Second, Musk has a treasure trove of information in visual records – 160 billion frames per day of video data from cameras in Tesla cars and trucks. This would help to create AI for robots not just text-only chatbots. The ultimate robot goal is humanoids that can operate in physical space such as factories and offices, and not just disembodied chatting. Tesla and Twitter could be a powerful combination.
A colleague told me last week a story about Bill Gates. Gates issued a challenge to Sam Altman of OpenAI to make his chatbot good enough to pass the AP Biology exam. Gates figured it would take two or three years to accomplish this. When Altman came back in just a few months, the billionaire watched as ChatGPT got the highest possible score on the test. This was in August 2022.
The chatbot was asked an additional question, “What do you say to a father with a sick child?” It gave a thoughtful answer that was probably better than any of us humans could have given, said Gates. The whole experience was stunning, he said. Gates has argued that AI will transform the workforce and has the potential to become a ‘digital personal assistant’ that enhances employee productivity.
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The Gray Nomad ….. I wish you all a Merry Christmas (and I’m not an AI chatbot).
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
[Genesis, chapter 1].