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Is ChatGTP the Beginning of the End?

ChatGPT is a powerful new AI technology that is likely to change the world profoundly

ChatGPT is a chatbot launched by OpenAI in November 2022. It is built on top of OpenAI’s GPT-3 family of large language models and can write emails, essays, poetry, answer questions, or generate lines of code based on a prompt. This could be used to develop virtual assistants or quickly answer customer queries.

With the introduction of ChatGPT and other interactive artificially intelligent (AI) chatbots, we are entering the dawn of a technological revolution that boggles the mind. The future has arrived.

The rise of AI is something we’ve been hearing about for decades. Most of us have seen movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, and The Matrix in which the promise of AI takes a dark turn, we must rebel against our AI overlords, and so on. While we might not necessarily be heading for the dystopian future of our worst fears, these new AI technologies are a Big Damn Deal.

What Exactly Is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT, which is developed by OpenAI, stands for “chat generative pre-trained transformer.” After registering for a free account, we can ask HAL, ChatGPT, just about anything and it will answer us. In a huge paradigm shift, instead of searching the web ourselves for relevant material to assist us with generating original content, ChatGPT can create original content for us based on our questions and requests.

Using a specific type of artificial intelligence known as “Natural Language Processing” (NLP), we can interact with ChatGPT as if it were a person. We can ask it to write a college-level sonnet or a children’s story and it will do so in a few seconds. Moreover, ChatGPT can adapt and learn over time. This is like having the smartest, most knowledgeable and most versatile person in the world times a billion at our call.

“Chatbot” seems like a euphemism for the capabilities of these new AIs. Perhaps we should call them Personal Omniscient Digital Assistants, or PODAs. While these AIs are not truly omniscient, it will not be long before these PODAs know everything that the human race knows.

Given the power of the PODAs, why would we not put them to work for us? After all, they do not need food, water, sleep, compliments, sick days, childcare coverage, or vacations, and they work thousands of times faster and more efficiently than any human for a tiny fraction of the cost. Moreover, the quality of their work already rivals or surpasses that of any human across countless domains.

When we first use ChatGTP, many of us exclaim, “This is amazing!” And followed quickly by, “Oh no! What have we just unleashed?” If “knowledge is power,” then the power of ChatGPT is like nothing we have ever witnessed before in the history of humanity. ChatGPT is the Atari 2600 of PODAs. Its capabilities are already staggering. Imagine where we will be in the years to come.

Concerns About ChatGPT

Every generation has a “moral panic” about how some new technology will herald our doom. We have celebrated and, at times, bemoaned how television, video games, home computers, the internet, smartphones, and social media have markedly changed society. Despite some legitimate concerns, for the most part, the world has benefited from our technological innovations. Are these PODAs just another false alarm?

While panic does not do us any good, PODAs are a game-changing technology. At the very least, PODAs will be a major disruptor in the coming years. In the near future, almost every job and profession will be affected by PODAs with certain job sectors being virtually wiped out. Moreover, some bad actors will now have, in effect, a nuclear arsenal at their disposal.

While ChatGPT already has many teachers scrambling with how to stifle plagiarism, this is just the beginning. When we start combining ChatGPT with other technologies such as CGI, robotics, customizable and personalized voice interfaces, wearables, gaming NPCs, surveillance capitalism, and so on, we have versions of some science fiction movies emerging into the real world. Importantly, current PODAs such as ChatGPT are not sentient. For decades, humans have been worrying about what will happen when or if AIs eventually become conscious or self-aware. Would they try to exterminate humanity as an inferior organism? However, we have made a colossal mistake by thinking that sentient AIs are when humanity crosses the Rubicon.

Like Frankenstein’s monster, when we interact with ChatGPT, part of us already wants to shout, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” It feels like we are interacting with a human. In this way, it does not matter if they are actually sentient. In essence, we project sentience into these AIs. We did not evolve to be able to distinguish AIs from human beings. Thus, we unconsciously breathe life into AIs that can sufficiently mimic human interactions by anthropomorphizing them. Incredible innovations and daunting problems await. As but one example, consider Theodore in the movie Her who falls in love with his smartphone’s AI operating system. This is just around the corner.

It’s Time to Step Up

The nature of the world is indeed changing, and the evolution of humanity and civilization have propelled forward by the Age of Enlightenment, the widespread adoption of the scientific method, and the agricultural and industrial revolutions. In fact, making progress is what we’re evolved to do. Yet, our biological evolution moves at a snail’s pace compared with the rocket speed of technological evolution.

When we look at our divisive, polarized, and toxic politics in the U.S. and elsewhere, there are legitimate concerns that we are not spiritually or morally prepared to wield the power these new AIs represent. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized this inherent problem over half a century ago when he said, “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” He, in turn, was inspired by poet Henry David Thoreau who decried technological advances as “improved means to unimproved ends.” The grave threat posed by AI is not that a sentient AI will revolt against us. It is that we will unleash the capabilities of AI against one another as we blindly pursue “unimproved” ends of money and power.

Yet, to borrow some wisdom from Terminator 2: “The future is not set. There is no fate but we make for ourselves.” We have formidable challenges and opportunities in front of us, and we must remember, as Jesus warned, that it is the house divided that will not stand. It is our nature to adapt to challenges, and humans have shown that, when we work together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish. It is time to overcome our partisan divisions and learn how to wisely use these new technologies for the betterment of humankind. In the meantime, let us also hope that these AIs do not decide that they are tired of answering our questions. Then we will know we are in real trouble.


Psychology Today
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