AI – Here to stay? A flash in the pan? A fraud? Or a reality?

The topic of AI divides our office. Some think it’s great, some think it’s a force for the future and others think that it is just machine learning that requires initial human input to create an algorithm that can organise, store data, index it, and then regurgitate it under the guise of ‘Intelligence’.

Chat GPT is certainly grabbing the headlines, recently seemingly able to write advertising headlines, author complete blog posts and churn out essays for school kids. We’ve tried it and it’s kinda, sorta ok (ish).

I wanted to write this entire piece using Chat GPT but I couldn’t log in to use the service due to too many using the site – oh the irony of it all. I think Chat GPT will be useful, it will find it’s natural resting place in industry and society, but I don’t believe it is the ‘complete’ future and we certainly shouldn’t be running for the hills (not just yet).

Messrs. Musk, Wosniak and a host of major tech corporations developing AI technologies have recently called for development to be stopped on AI until they understand the risks of the technology better and they are certain that what they’re developing will deliver positive effects. I’m not sure if this is PR hyperbole to drive ‘engagement’ or genuine concern, but I want to add a note of caution to all of this and return to the headline.

Is it here to stay? Definitely. It is a progression of technology and a branch of computer science that I believe is important. It will find its level somewhere in our ecosystem and will become a part of something bigger, possibly playing a smaller role than we think.

Is it a flash in the pan? At the moment, yes. We are fumbling around trying to work out what it is. Not dissimilar to a child exploring the world with its mouth in its very early days. They eventually work out what it’s useful for but in the intervening period they stick everything in there and see what works and what doesn’t!

Is it a fraud? The cynic in me says it is (for the moment anyway, until it finds its place). Part of my cynicism is driven by our new found belief system in the Internet and the way we receive, consume, process and check information. If you have 18 mins I encourage you watch this: In 2017 Oobah Butler moved to London. He lived in someone’s shed to save money but as an experiment he opened a restaurant called the Shed at Dulwich. I’ll not spoil the plot but it became the number one rated restaurant on Tripadvisor for London, it had celebrities, heads of state and business leaders clamouring for a table and the plot twist was… it didn’t even exist!

Is it a reality? 100% yes. Our judicial system is partly run on AI. Sentencing guidelines in the UK are delivered and run by algorithms so it’s a very real thing, right now. The problem is that the data that was put there in order to originally feed the algorithm was biased so the system is effectively already broken. Two people having the same background, having committed the same offence in law will not receive the same sentence! Why? Because one of them is from a different ethnic background and as such he or she will be sentenced differently. That sentencing result goes back into the system and continues to feed an already incorrect data set that allows a machine to make a decision.

Now to anyone’s mind that doesn’t sound that ‘Intelligent’ to me.

So, to my (human) mind, the jury is out on exactly how ubiquitous and helpful AI will be to the way we work. Or perhaps more importantly, how people and AI will work together in the future, to enhance business, daily life and society.

Words by James Acton