AI—The Great Glass Elevator
Full disclosure—when I started writing this post, I fully intended to have ChatGPT do it for me and wait to see if anyone noticed. I planned for the reveal to be a sort of meta, self-referential surprise that displayed the scary-good capabilities of AI chatbots. Unfortunately, after several back-and-forth attempts, I came to a stunningly obvious realization: we are still roaming the uncanny valley. The responses relayed to me by ChatGPT (when speaking about itself) were both dry and devoid of human warmth. Without major upgrades, I don’t think AI will ever replace us, but this doesn’t mean it cannot improve us.
The tech may absorb information in the same sponge-like manner of a child’s brain, but unlike a developing child, it cannot critically think in the same way you and I do. It may be able to pass universal qualifying exams, chat, flirt, and even plead romantic overtures as per the data it was fed, but it cannot relay the acquired wisdom of a singular human experience. It is an entire shore of knowledge, not a single speck of sand. It is a fully functioning cell, not an electron. It is plural, not singular. It is simply an amalgamation of parts.
Without a doubt, a collective of facts and opinions is useful, but so too is the singular experience. Can we even truly replicate a specific “personality” molded by years of unique experiences, successes, failures, and constantly in flux—especially if we have yet to even define what constitutes a human essence? To further illustrate, imagine uploading your consciousness to an afterlife in the cloud (a recent trope in the sci-fi genre). As comforting as it sounds to guarantee a sort of immortality via uploaded digital clones, ultimately the copy is not you, so its existence and behaviors are identifiably separate and individual, but no less significant.
As such, it's important that we reframe both our expectations and aspirations here. Instead of thinking of AI like a self-aware Frankenstein creation waiting to seek murderous revenge on its creators, it’s more like a loyal lapdog. Dogs have been bred and trained to accomplish incredible feats that both play to their natural talents and complement human weakness. So too, AI is a tool that bridges the gap of human limitation. Imagine arenas where we have been limited by our finite humanity. Can ChatGPT help us finally build a time machine? Think big! By that same logic, if we judge humans based on a test AI can pass with flying colors, perhaps it’s the test, not the people, that are due for an upgrade?
What is certain is that the tech isn’t going anywhere, and this gives us both pros (progress) and cons (security) to grapple with. To keep up with what will certainly be accelerating expectations and standards, we should get acquainted with writing effective prompts to achieve optimal AI outputs. This will have the benefit of freeing us of rote tasks and revealing solutions previously obscured by our individualism. In the end, however, it is our individual choice to decide how this data and material manifests in the world at large, and that is what makes all the difference.
So go forth and ride that Great Glass Elevator to the future, but don’t forget who’s really pressing the buttons!