Don’t Fear the AI Reaper

Jim Woods

Jim Woods has over 20 years of experience in the markets from working as a stockbroker, financial journalist, and money manager.

When one of the biggest and most important companies ever announces a fiscal push toward the use of artificial intelligence (AI), you know things are starting to get serious.

On Monday, tech-behemoth Microsoft (MSFT) revealed that it is putting its money where its AI mouth is, as the Redmond giant said it was making a $10 billion investment in ChatGPT software developer OpenAI.

The move will allow Microsoft to offer GPT-3, the service that the generative AI chatbot ChatGPT is based on, in its various platforms across its cloud-based services. Basically, if you have Microsoft applications, you will likely soon be able to use ChatGPT.

Now, in addition to being a move designed to get out in front of competitors such as Amazon (AMZN), Alphabet (GOOGL) and Salesforce (CRM), Microsoft’s embrace of AI here is telling, especially considering the company also just announced it was laying off some 10,000 actual human workers.

“It tells you a lot that within a week of announcing pretty substantial layoffs, Microsoft is also announcing a substantial investment in OpenAI.” That’s according to Gil Luria, technology strategist at D.A. Davidson, in an interview with Yahoo Finance.

But what is so important about ChatGPT, and why is Microsoft so intent on its use?

Basically, ChatGPT allows users to have human-like conversations and much more with other chatbots. Perhaps more importantly, the AI language models can answer questions, assist users with tasks such as composing emails, essays, writing computer code, etc. Essentially, ChatGPT can do a whole lot of what we thought could only be done by human writers, human programmers and even human artists.

Already, the program is capturing the brains of some of the biggest thinkers in the AI space, including Tesla (TSLA) and Twitter chief Elon Musk. “ChatGPT is scary good. We are not far from dangerously strong AI,” said Musk, who was actually one of the founders of OpenAI before departing the company.

Like all new technologies, there are those who fear the worst from AI, claiming that it will cause massive worker dislocation and result in even greater “wealth inequality” and other supposed societal damage. And while technology has always been a societal disrupter (mostly for the good), AI and tools such as ChatGPT have the very real possibility of venturing deep into the creative domains that were long thought to be only “humanly” possible, such as profound emotional content, creativity, personality, etc.

Then there are the more optimistic views on AI, ones such as those held by a man who was perhaps the highest-profile example of a victim of the efficacy of AI, chess-great Gary Kasparov. In 1996, Kasparov famously vanquished what was then the strongest chess engine ever created, IBM’s Deep Blue. Then just one year later, Kasparov was beaten by a new, and better, version of the AI-based Deep Blue.

A recent article in one of my favorite publications, Reason, titled, “Artificial Intelligence Will Change Jobs — For the Better,” points out that despite being defeated by AI, Kasparov actually views the technology as one of the greatest opportunities for humanity to advance its well-being.

“The reason is that Kasparov has observed in the intervening years that the highest level of performance, on the chessboard and elsewhere, is reached when humans work with smart machines.”

As the Reason piece goes on to explain, “After Deep Blue’s programmers established that it could see deeper into the game than the human mind, Kasparov and a group of partners came up with a new concept: What if instead of human vs. machine, people played against one another but with the assistance of chess software?”

This new style of chess, known as “advanced chess,” showed that it wasn’t the player with the best chess software that won, nor was it the best human player. “The top performers were the players who were able to use the machines most effectively, those who were able to get the most out of the chess engines and their own creative abilities.”

This is where I think the confluence of AI and human intelligence can be maximized. The way I see it, AI is just a tool. And like any tool, it can be used to enhance positive outcomes that help the world, or it can bring about pernicious consequences that destroy.

The question then becomes will we be wise enough to know the difference.

For more on this important issue, and to find out if we should indeed fear the AI reaper, I invite you to listen to one of my favorite podcast episodes, “Will AI Destroy Humankind?” featuring my friend, computer scientist and AI expert, Robert Deadman (yes, that is his real name).

In this fascinating discussion, Robert and I discuss the current state of AI, and what the future holds for this increasingly ubiquitous technology.

Topics include such questions as at what point will AI begin making its own decisions? How far away is this circumstance? What is the role of quantum computing in this question? Will AI actually have “free will”? When will the move take place from “artificial intelligence” to “artificial sentience”?

Perhaps most importantly, can we solve the so-called “alignment” problem of AI, and how can we really understand this concept?

If you want to indulge in a much deeper dive on the issues surrounding AI, I invite you to check out my discussion with Robert Deadman, as I assure you it will captivate your attention.

*****************************************************************

Men vs. Machines

“The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.”

–B. F. Skinner

Machines may indeed become sentient one day, and they may well develop something indistinguishable from “consciousness.” Yet as Skinner points out, that’s not really the big problem. The bigger problem is whether humans choose to think, which means whether we hold reason and rationality as our primary tools of survival. If we fail to do this, then we will fail as a species no matter how smart we create our machines.

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.

In the name of the best within us,

Jim Woods

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