Of Intelligence, Artificial, Real or Otherwise 

End of the world epidemic or wonder box of unlimited potential – the expectations from Artificial Intelligence (AI) are immense. When Geoffrey Hinton, ex VP Google and one of its founding fathers, calls AI posing “existential crisis” and Yuval Noah Harari, author, philosopher and futurist, calls it the Oppenheimer moment ,, something definitely sounds off.  The destructive strength of this evolving technology should send goosebumps down the spine to most technologists and businesses, let alone the gullible user. But just like a child fascinated with a  bug crawling the backyard, users, individual or enterprises, are busy playing around, aiming to capture it in a glass jar. On the brighter side this bug has caught on well and is fascinating all with its flutter. The ease, speed, and its humongous computing power is bridging the difference between time and effect, need and gratification, effort and output. A darling of marketers, the technology is easing out content creation, campaign planning, presentation designs and much more. Newsrooms have been transformed, researchers now have a friend and creative thinkers have an assistant to do data crunching. All it takes is a prompt.  

The question is what are we asking it to do, and what all we can make it deliver to us?  

AI has been called names, a variety of names! – Alien, Synthetic, Destructive and more. These names reveal a fear that goes beyond immediate concern. The creators are worried that their creation is going past their ability to rein it in. The genie is out of the bottle and may not return, at least not anytime soon. The worry is that artificial is taking over the real and we are looking on as our brain gets dwarfed by the product of its own. 

The doomsday scenario expects a lot from this technology, of course. It attributes undiluted and absolute power to the expertise of computing, assimilation, analysis and lightening fast response. Over and beyond the mechanics of analytics, AI is developing emotional intelligence and can immerse in steam of consciousness. This is eerily haunting. Have computing scientists really created a monster that will ultimately destroy its master? As Hinton says “there is so much unknown”. 

Now for the burden of unlimited potential. From asking ChatGPT to complete school assignments to support PhD thesis, the technology is used as the ultimate guru. Marketing content, designing presentations, composing poetry and music, leadership keynotes, trend analysis, predictive scenarios – ask and it is given. In its capability to deliver almost any answer instantly, this seems the best thing that has happened to mankind, may be next to invention of wheels!  

AI has been around for decades, the new avatar made everyone sit up and not just take notice but jump right in. The euphoria around instant, self-serve utility is overtaking the most important consideration – the real strength of this technology in solving for issues across social, health, education and environment, beyond mere business spectrum. For instance, Khanmigo, a soon to be launched AI assistant from Khan Academy is aimed to provide personalized education to students and assist teachers in being their best. “We’re at the cusp of using AI for probably the biggest positive transformation that education has ever seen” claims Sal Khan, the celebrated educator.  

AI is accelerating drug development and time to market for essential medicines. It is improving efficiency in patient care as it makes sense of scattered and distributed data to predict possible health conditions. Talking of social change, this can be a platform for voices on social justice. The flip side is, it can, and it is, being used to spread malice, hatred and fake narrative. 

What we know and what we don’t is the distance between the constructive and destructive power of this magical technology. But magic, in most cases is a trick of hand and a deliberate illusion. However, magic is also the charm of uncharted, unknown and unexplored. Magic is also emotion. From fantasy to science fiction to magical realism to fiction and nonfiction – the story has taken different forms. It is a large tome to read and decipher. And, we have hardly turned a few pages. Nonetheless, this is the most interesting story of our times. Do we tell this tale to our grandchildren or AI powered robots tell them about the creators who let the genie out is anyone’s guess.  

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