Friday, August 25, 2023

#237 / A Lot Of People Getting Rich


My headline quotes Sam Altman, the chief executive of OpenAI, the start-up company that has precipitated the latest frenzy of interest in (and concern about) Artificial Intelligence. Altman suggests that A.I. is going to result in "a lot of people getting rich."
I have commented on Artificial Intelligence before, and a June 14, 2023, article in The New York Times (which is where I got the image above) convinced me that I should talk about it again. If you can slip past The Times' paywall, I definitely recommend that you read this article yourself. It is titled, "Silicon Valley Confronts the Idea That the 'Singularity' Is Here."

Ray Kurzweil has been talking about the "Singularity" for quite some time. He is definitely a fan - and if you'd like to read his books about it, just click this link. Within about the next twenty-five years, Kurzweil believes, a moment of "true transcendence" will be upon us. That is when "computation will be part of ourselves, and we will increase our intelligence a millionfold."

Skeptics (color me skeptical), are pretty much of the opinion of Rodney Brooks, the former director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I am providing Brooks' comment from The Times, which the newspaper says is typical of the kind of comments made by those who think talk about the "Singularity" is an "intellectually dubious attempt to replicate the belief system of organized religion in the kingdom of software."

"They all want eternal life without the inconvenience of having to believe in God."
What I have read about Artificial Intelligence does seem to have some relationship to the Bible story about the "Golden Calf." That story, which I first heard in Sunday School, is generally understood to be a warning about human beings getting convinced that their own creations are proper objects of worship. Watch out when you do that! That's what that Bible story is trying to tell us. 
Speaking of "gold," The Times' article does make reference to Sam Altman's claim that A.I. will mean that "a lot of people will be getting rich." I am sorry to have to deliver the bad news, but the author of The Times' article is probably pretty close to the mark in saying the following:

Much of the A.I. research is being done by the companies with much to gain from the results... Despite all the talk of A.I. being an unlimited wealth-generating machine, the people getting rich are pretty much the ones who are already rich (emphasis added).
Oh, heck! No big surprises there!

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