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☕️ LOVE AND POPPIES ☙ Monday, May 29, 2023 ☙ C&C NEWS 🦠
It's Memorial Day. We accept the torch passed from our fallen brothers and sisters. And my summary of where AI is going — and why it suddenly appeared during the pandemic — may surprise you.
Good morning, C&C, it’s Memorial Day! This is a short, but thought-provoking post to get you through. Today I give you some unvarnished thoughts about the AI revolution and a guess at how the AI revolution is related to the pandemic and ‘misinformation.’
And remember the troops!
🗞 *MEMORIAL DAY COMMENTS* 🗞
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
“In Flanders Fields,” Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (written during World War I).
The Civil War birthed Memorial Day. As the Nation slowly recovered from the horrifying after-effects of its self-hatred and the near-fatal, apocalyptic violence as the Country attacked itself in a sort of civil autoimmunity, various townships began observing Decoration Day. On May 30, 1868, General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared Decoration Day as a special day of remembrance, a day to decorate fallen Union soldiers’ graves with flowers.
Logan, a military man, pragmatically picked the May 30th date for its optimal weather for floral decorations.
Over time, Decoration Day evolved into Memorial Day, and as new bloody conflict led to new bloody conflict, the holiday expanded to include remembrance of soldiers from all American wars. In 1971, LBJ signed the bureaucratically-named “Uniform Monday Holiday Act,” making Memorial Day a federal holiday, and moving it to the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend for Americans, since the fixed May 30th date had often inconveniently fallen during the work week.
For remembrance, here is the list of the major U.S. wars and conflicts usually recognized on Memorial Day (not including smaller conflicts like the Indian Wars, Operation Desert Fox, or the Bosnian ‘peacekeeping’ mission):
American Revolutionary War (1775-1783)
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
Mexican-American War (1846-1848)
American Civil War (1861-1865)
Spanish-American War (1898)
World War I (1917-1918)
World War II (1941-1945)
Korean War (1950-1953)
Vietnam War (1955-1975)
Persian Gulf War (1990-1991)
Afghanistan War (2001-?)
Iraq War (2003-2011)
It often feels awkward to wish folks a “Happy Memorial Day,” but the dead paid their ultimate price, gave the last full measure of their devotion, so that we — their national brothers and sisters — could preserve and enjoy our cherished freedoms. So enjoy your Memorial Day as a free American, spend time with your family, and Remember.
As Colonel MacRae stressed in his now-famous poem, our dead soldiers passed the torch of preserving freedom to we, the living. Let us keep the torch alight.
🗞💬 *AI COMMENTARY* 💬🗞
The Childers family will celebrate the holiday by attending a local small-town Memorial Day service (not in my deep blue home town), and by taking my younger sons fishing this morning. So we are leaving shortly. Since I don’t have time for a full roundup today, I’m going to give you an update on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) phenomenon with some scattered observations.
I’m not exaggerating by saying artificial intelligence will change everything. It’s nearly impossible to imagine any scenario in life that could remain unaffected. In most cases things will probably be profoundly altered by the new technology.
Point number one: if you’re not using AI yet, you should be. You need to understand it, and it can be quite useful at times. Google’s Bard is free and is a decent place to start. https://bard.google.com/. Begin by just thinking about the AI as an enhanced search engine that can answer English-language questions instead of making you guess the right search terms.
🔥 Point number two: AI will not suddenly wake up, take over the world, and evolve into a higher order of life making us humans obsolete. Scientists don’t even understand HUMAN consciousness, so it’s preposterous to think they could artificially recreate self-consciousness in a lab. We’re not even close.
Which is not to say AI isn’t dangerous. But the dangers aren’t with what the machines might do. The dangers lie in what people might do with these intelligent machines.
Alan Turing created his famous Turing Test in 1950, and for almost 80 years it has been the gold standard for testing whether a machine could be rightly called “intelligent.” In the Turing Test, a human judge would engage in natural language texting conversations with both a remote human, and a machine that generates human-like text. The judge wouldn’t know which was which. If the judge couldn’t reliably pick out the machine after five minutes of conversation, the machine would be said to have passed the test, and would be “intelligent.”
The elegant simplicity of the Turing Test is now obsolete.
What the test has highlighted is that ‘artificial intelligence’ is qualitatively different from ‘artificial consciousness.’ A human judge who knows what to look for can probably still tell the machine from the human, but an unprepared judge can’t.
Although there are hosts of hot takes, and tons of wild speculation, I can’t find a scrap of evidence that artificial self-consciousness is anywhere on the horizon. Which does not mean AI isn’t alarming. It is and should be extremely alarming.
But it is also unavoidable at this point. The digital cat is out of the bag.
🔥 I can’t prove it, but based on circumstantial evidence I believe that the military has possessed this technology for at least ten years, maybe longer, and probably has AI far advanced over what is publicly available to us. My wild speculation is that the military/intelligence agencies were forced to develop the tech in order to make useful the massive amounts of digital data they were collecting on Americans and probably every other device-connected human on the planet.
The question is, why give it to us at all, and why now? I think I know the answer.
🔥 As an example of how AI will change everything, it’s going to obsolete digital video and photo evidence in legal cases, setting us back 100 years in the courtroom. Bad actors can already use Photoshop to alter evidence. But Adobe just released its new, AI-enabled version — already! — and it’s shocking. Among other things, users can change what a single person in the photo is looking at, just by dragging the subject’s digitized chin around.
There are any number of new AI startups promising the ability to create full photorealistic videos, including dialog, a narrative framework, characters, scenes, and music from just short text prompts. Imagine the possibilities for manufacturing video evidence to, say, sway a jury. “Look at this video of President Trump stealing a donut from AOC’s breakfast room!”
I’m predicting we are just one bad court decision away from digital photography being completely excluded as evidence in court cases, because it will be so unreliable. It’s possible that film-based photographic technology might be resurrected, such as for crime scene photo jobs or for security videos.
It might be time to buy some Kodak stock. (I’m a lawyer not a stockbroker. But stocks at your own risk.)
🔥 Speaking of stocks, AI will soon be picking everyone’s stocks, creating a niche market for humans with the unique abilities to predict and outsmart the machines.
🔥 In perhaps the most astounding feature of this AI 1.0, it can already write software. Some of you may know I used to be a professional software guy; I put myself through college and law school writing fairly sophisticated financial applications for business clients.
I’ve tested it for myself, and it is true. ChatGPT can write code on demand. It can also analyze an existing, human-designed section of code and tell you where the bugs are. It can take a human-written program and make it more generic, shorter, and more efficient. It can do all that stuff already.
In other words, AI will be used, is being used, to improve itself. It means the velocity of all software improvements, and many brand new types of software applications, are going to start coming much, much faster now. Orders of magnitude faster.
It almost makes me want to get back into the coding business.
Don’t get me wrong: AI isn’t going to replace all programmers. It’s just going to replace a lot of programmers, since one good programmer using AI can now do the work of a team of programmers. And do it better, faster, and more reliably.
You might ask why AI won’t just replace all programmers. The answer is because AI isn’t creative, in the sense that it’s not coming up with ideas for new software on its own. Someone always has to first ask the question. That’s the limitation of AI’s lack of self-consciousness. It’s just software. It has no goals or motivations; it just pretends to have them.
We may quickly get to the point that critical infrastructure software is so big and so complicated that no human programmer really understands how it works at all.
It all reminds me of famous sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
🔥 AI will soon become even more ubiquitous than Google. Want a recipe for lemon custard? Just ask the AI. Want to learn to play the flute? Ask the AI. Trying to undermine your neighbor’s new fence project? AI can suggest a way. Want to know what time the movie about intelligent robots starts? Ditto.
You can decry it as fake and say you’d rather live without it. But you won’t be able to live without it. They’re going to build AI into everything. It will be in cars, refrigerators, airplanes, cameras, phones, tablets, elevators, power stations, sex robots, IRS computers; it will be in every single thing that runs on batteries.
And it WILL be demonstrably better than what we had before. Sure, there will be problems, as with all new technologies, but it will be so obviously superior to the disjointed internet of random websites we had before, that the vast majority of people will be clamoring for more AI, and soon.
🔥 Because everyone in the world will soon rely on AI to answer routine questions, from homework to help with your relationship, we are about to have a massive political battle over who controls the AI. Joe Biden’s claimed “interest” in AI is not to protect humanity from runaway machines, even though that’s the latest narrative.
The truth is, the democrats want to make sure that the AI everyone uses is woke, and says the right thing.
The best way to accomplish that will be to regulate the AI industry so much that only one or two big corporations control all the AI, as well as all the money flowing from it. The regulations will exclude smaller players from developing competing products.
And then, government can erase all that pesky misinformation. There won’t be any misinformation. People will ask the AI, and the AI will tell them. And that will be that.
That is probably why they’re giving us this technology now. The answer is, they need the control. They’ve learned the unfiltered internet is too hard to control and too hard to filter. The whole frustrating exercise is like trying to keep water in a puddle. The information keeps finding a way out.
But when everyone accepts the AI, and learns to depend and rely on it, many people won’t even WANT to consider alternative ideas. The AI will be seen as neutral, unassailable, with no bias or bone to pick. It’s the ultimate mind controller.
Problem, reaction, solution.
🔥 Always remember that every single thing you tell or ask the AI is being saved in a million places and studied.
🔥 Finally, I’ve resisted this idea for months, considering it fringe and kooky. But I’m being persuaded that the Book of the Revelation predicted the rise of artificial intelligence. Revelation 13:15 describes a character often called “the False Prophet” (called the ‘Second Beast’ in the Bible). The False Prophet is permitted by God to create an image of the Antichrist (the First Beast), and bizarrely, it says that the “image of the beast” could speak.
That’s contradictory in a way; it’s the exact opposite of everything the rest of the Bible says about images. Over and over the Bible emphasizes that idols — images of false gods — CANNOT SPEAK. They can’t do anything.
So where did this one single talking image come from?
It has occurred to me that software backups are often called “images.” And ChatGPT can already assume a persona, which is a kind of image of a person. You can already ask ChatGPT to “be President Trump,” and it will start answering your questions in Trump’s unmistakeable rhetorical style.
“It’s the BEST SOFTWARE EVER MADE, believe me.”
So what happens when they combine that Trump persona with a digital video, in other words, a visual image of the President? It will be an image that can speak.
It is not difficult to imagine that an upcoming version of the AI will include lots of current and historical “characters,” like Abraham Lincoln or Albert Einstein. You’ll have them right on your phone, right in your pocket, and you’ll be able to talk to them, and ask them for advice anytime. They’ll be photorealistic, moving, and they’ll happily tell you what to do.
“Hey Abe, what should I do about these pesky confederates down at the Shake Shack?”
Worse, there will probably be celebrity assistants, like your own little Taylor Swift. You’ll be able to have your own speaking religious figures that answer questions, like the Dali Lama, Buddha, or Mohammed.
Think about that one for a second.
Revelation 13’s image of the beast sounds a whole lot like it’s describing an artificially intelligent, digitalized, speaking version of a living politician: an “image” that can talk and tell you to do stuff. It would be just like having a little Trump in your pocket. Anytime you want, you can ask him how to negotiate a deal, start a reality TV show, for dating advice and tweeting tips, to recommend a good tanning salon, or how to buy tall-building real estate.
In fact, this speaking character idea is so obvious that I won’t even be able to sue anyone for stealing it. If personalized characters like this aren’t generally available by this time next year, I’ll eat an Incredible Burger.
But the thing is: what happens when the image of the people’s most favorite, most trusted personal advisor is programmed with some ulterior motives? What do YOU think could happen?
Hope this was interesting! Have a memorable Memorial Day, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow to kick off the work week.
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