Some thoughts on the hype around artificial intelligence

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote something on LinkedIn. It was only supposed to be a short piece. It ended up long enough for a blog post, so I’m re-publishing it here…

In a week that seems to have had more than its fair share of truly bad AI ideas (including GPT employment vetting and making a single image “sing and talk” from audio), I’m as AI-jaded as anyone right now. So please bear with me on my yet-another-AI-post-on-social media.

You see, earlier today, someone shared Molly White‘s article about how AI isn’t useless – but is it worth it? It’s a long read (so I recommend listening instead – a great feature of Molly’s website) and there are many parts of the article that resonate for me.

First up, she compares the current AI hype with Blockchain before in that “they do a poor job of much of what people try to do with them, they can’t do the things their creators claim they one day might, and many of the things they are well suited to do may not be altogether that beneficial”.

But Molly goes on to talk about some of the use cases where AI is helpful, which I’ll pick another quote from: “I like it for getting annoying, repetitive tasks out of my way; I don’t worry it’s going to take my job.”

Some of the other quotes that resonated with me were that: “[AI tools] are handy in the same way that it might occasionally be useful to delegate some tasks to an inexperienced and sometimes sloppy intern” and that “ChatGPT does not write, it generates text, and anyone who’s spotted obviously LLM-generated content in the wild immediately knows the difference”.

I found it interesting when Molly writes about AI-generated images too: “AI-generated images tend to suffer from a similar bland ‘tone’ as its writing, and their proliferation only makes me desire real human artwork more”.

She also writes about where LLMs are “good enough” – although sadly that seems to be industrialising some of the less desirable behaviours of the Internet (e.g. keyword stuffing and content farms).

Most importantly, Molly writes about the environmental and human costs of AI – and touches on the truth of it all. Many AI technologies are solutions looking for problems – and really about boosting profits for investors in tech companies.

And then the final paragraphs nail it for me – I recommend you read Molly’s post instead of me quoting them in full here (or ask an LLM to summarise it ?) but here’s the last sentence, which absolutely matches how I feel about so much technology right now. “We need to push back against endless tech manias and overhyped narratives, and oppose the ‘innovation at any cost’ mindset that has infected the tech sector.”

I’m not a Luddite. But I do pride myself on my ability to look past the hype and be strategic when it comes to tech. AI’s a long way from its plateau of productivity – and just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

Oops. I appear to have written enough here for a blog post… oh well, at least it was genuine opinion and not generated by an LLM. And thanks for the inspiration, Molly White.

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