If one exerts some counterintuition on the topic at hand, then it will become quite obvious that it pertains to the innate nature of human beings. Asking questions and looking for answers seems to be the default pursuit of Humans that has kept us ahead as a species. So, in the continuum of evolution, it should not come as a surprise that the year 2023 is leaving us with some key questions unanswered, lest we are thrown off our train of pursuit.
WILL ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) KILL US?
What Artificial Intelligence (AI), in its commercialised form, has done is, it is delivering some really unbelievable answers. But ironically, when it comes to AI itself, the world is grappling for answers about how beneficial or destructive it will be. In this case, there seem to be too many answers, with each proffering their equally compelling arguments. While Yes/No-questions are considered objective, the answer to the AI question has so far been both YES and NO, which many would argue to be as good as having no answers at all.
AI’s Oppenheimer/Frankenstein moment!
Scared of my own creation: Sam Altman, OpenAI CEO
I don’t fully understand AI: Sundar Pichai, Google & Alphabet CEO
AI is quite dangerous: Elon Musk, Tesla & SpaceX CEO
Whether it is an Oppenheimer moment or Frankenstein moment for AI, there is a palpable tension underlying the aforesaid statements. There is no denying the fact that AI is disruptive, and many believe that this very disruptiveness will cut both ways. It will be a tool and could also be a weapon. As AI is a technology that promises (and delivered to a large extent) hyper scaling of capabilities, on one end, we are looking at groundbreaking breakthroughs that would have taken years for humans and the current state of technology to get their heads around; while on the other end, experts assessing risks that come with AI are not shying away from including mass extinction events in their basket of odds. But this is not the actual problem as everyone seems to be agreeing to some degree or other that AI comes with risks. The more pertinent questions are –
Why aren’t we stopping AI development till we figure it out?
Can it be regulated?
Can we pull the plug on AI?
How much time have we got or are we already late?
Many believe that the incentives are stacked in such a way that it will be difficult to stop the development of AI, just as what happened with Nuclear weapons. It was quite obvious when ChatGPT beat Google, which then scrambled to launch Bard, despite the search giant being the early mover in AI. It has now become an arms race between the big tech companies and to stop might be beyond their individual capacities.
Strong AI vs Weak AI
There is a school of thought that says as everything is going to be led by technology, threats are also going to emerge from there. So, to solve those tech problems, we need more tech not less i.e. the solution to the AI problem is more powerful AI than stopping AI.
On the other end of the spectrum, concerns are also being flagged that AI’s capabilities are growing so exponentially that it might zoom past human intelligence any moment after which it technically cannot be regulated, or worse, even the kill switch may not work.
So where are we now? Well, it is difficult to tell. How far things have gone, what is happening behind those Large Language Models (LLMs) and how capable they are getting as we speak.
WAR OR PEACE?
Will there be peace or a world war? Conflicts have been with us. But two events in the very recent past have certainly tipped the scales in a manner that the spectre of a global conflict or a world war keeps flashing in front of us. While 2023 inherited the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it also engendered another conflict right in the center of a tinderbox. As the world was getting used to the daily dose of developments on the Russia-Ukraine war, there came the nasty jab of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
One might argue that the predictions of a larger conflict have remained more or less speculations and unfounded paranoia as Russia & Ukraine are locked in a stalemate. Similarly, an optimist’s handwave might paint a picture of the Israel-Hamas conflict playing out in isolation. So it is very likely that as they drag on, the contagiousness will dwindle, and insidiously, the time and resource overruns will sap the energy out of the pursuit to the extent that these conflicts would rather become implosions, to the further impairment of the parties involved, than explosions that would send ripples strong enough to stir a global conflagration.
But there remains an equally strong case that these conflicts have been seemingly good at drawing global actors onto the stage. Such dynamics make many observers and commentators believe that if we don't play this right then these could be the early days of a world war.
ARE WE ALONE?
Are we alone in this universe or there is something else? This is the question that has been irking scientists, thinkers, and stargazers alike for quite long. Its manifestations in reported incidents about Unidentified Flying Objects have quite divided the world. While some swear by the fact that aliens exist, some discard it as a figment of imagination popularised by Hollywood movies with computer-generated props and graphics. However, NASA made an important announcement in the middle of September 2023. Though it went on to jargonise the question, it stopped remarkably short of answering it.
NASA termed the manifestations as Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) and concluded that they did not find any evidence of aliens behind these phenomena. However, NASA also said that they do not rule out the possibility and they would study them further using more data and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
So, there is the answer– We do not know yet.
By: Bikram Keshari Jena