HomeOpinionOPINION: The specter of artificial intelligence

OPINION: The specter of artificial intelligence

I never cared for artificial flowers even if they don’t fade. They may look a little bit like real flowers, but they aren’t. Artificial Intelligence, AI to everyone in the know, is a bit like artificial flowers. First of all, AI is really stupid. To understand how stupid, we need to recollect exactly what a computer is. A computer is just an adding machine, except not as smart. An adding machine can count from 0 to 9, but a computer can only count from 0 to 1, which is pretty stupid. Of course, the new quantum computer can count above 1, but they are more like adding machines attached to a Ouija board.

A huge breakthrough came to computers when someone attached a typewriter to an adding machine. Supposedly, the typewriter allows the operator to tell the adding machine what to do, except adding machines do not have brains, so they do not remember what they are told to do. To make up for this short coming, someone attached a tape recorder to the typewriter and adding machine so that they would have a memory of the instructions. In one of those odd hiccups in the march of progress, as popular culture dumped the record player for the tape player, the computer engineers dumped the tape recorder and replaced it with a record player, which they called a disk drive.

Then, someone hooked up the adding machine, typewriter, and record player to the telephone so that computers could talk to each other, apparently unaware that computers still have no brains and nothing to say.

Meanwhile, people everywhere started experimenting with AI in hopes that the public would not notice. Since computers have no brains and cannot talk, the experiments began with answering machines (the same old tape recorder). “Hello, this is Jerry. Just leave a message and I’ll call you later! Have a nice day.” Some of us realized that it really was not Jerry, even though it sounded just like him. This version of AI was not implemented until “they” had experimented on all the little girls in the USA with a talking doll (the same old tape recorder). “Hello. Will you play with me? Let’s go shopping!” The success of AI has led to great advances in civilization. Now the tape recorders call us. “My opponent will take this country down the road to ruin. Show your patriotism by sending me a check for $1,000 today to save our country!” AI is also designed to protect businesses from time consuming intrusions from customers. “Listen carefully as our options have changed. Press one to be directed to an endless loop of questions. Press two to hear this message again.”

What made the computer sail into everyone’s life, though, was the decision to hook it up to a TV set so it could do cool things. While all the computer-generated graphics that make the web and gaming so attractive may seem smart, it is all a matter of pixels. What is a pixel? A pixel is like cross-stich. Imagine every computer with a little grandmother inside who is doing little bitty cross stitch to form a picture, except they do it very fast.

In the end, the only thing a computer can do is what its designer tells it to do. The emphasis in Artificial Intelligence is “artificial.” It has nothing to do with intelligence.

Harry Lee Poe is the Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University. Readers can write to him c/o Union University, 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, TN 38305.

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