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Posts Tagged ‘artificial intelligence’

Outsourcing Critical Thinking

September 13th, 2023 No comments

Recently, I had the misfortune of dunking my mobile phone into a lake.  Not on purpose of course; the phone was in the pocket of my swim trunks and I’d forgotten that it was there when I waded into the water.  I’m sure I’m not alone in having these kinds of mishaps with their cell-phones.  The aggravating part is not so much the moisture permeating the phone and causing it to not work.  It was the reality that without access to the information and features on the phone, I was somewhat handicapped from doing everyday things that I’d taken for granted.

Who amongst us can easily recall the actual telephone numbers or co-ordinates of our regular contacts….much less casual friends or especially of business contacts? We’ve all programmed the phones to access them via voice or key strokes.  What about access to doors whereby we wave our phones over a Bluetooth sensor?   Don’t forget the most important function of all phones these days and which is responsible for their high cost….the camera.  Once that’s out of commission, our everyday shortcut for recording events is no longer available.  Of course, without camera phones, how does one eat food or take vacations? Girls would be helpless. It’s like the old chestnut about preventing an Italian from driving by breaking his middle finger.

Our dependence on such devices has been such that people are more anxious without their phones than they are about almost anything else.  That’s rather frightening to think that our lives are tethered to a 3 by 5 piece of plastic and silicon. This transition has been gradual, so gradual that we’ve failed to notice our increasing dependency on our phones.  Like all consumer items, the hook is convenience.  Who doesn’t want more convenience?  The issue with convenience is that our minds naturally ignore the processes involved in finding a solution and we become dependent on ‘things’ or others for decisions.  Once routine things are taken care of, we presumably turn our mental efforts to more worthwhile things.

Except that this doesn’t happen. If anything, we are likely to become lazier.  Why go through the trouble of researching anything in depth when by merely clicking a few keys, a ‘source’ will provide the information for us.  The onset of Artificial Intelligence will only make this worse.  We have as a society, offloaded lots of our critical thinking to sources that make our minds up for us.  The advent of the phenomenon of social media has created an entirely malleable generation of people whose opinions are shaped by prolific posters.  The veracity of this claim is proven by the amount of money that corporations are willing to throw at ‘influencers’, in order to shape views and opinions and of course, hawk goods.

To be sure, corporate television and media still exert their influence, but distrust of them has grown so much that few take any media utterances seriously any more.  They have collectively become America’s version of Pravda or Xinhua. For those that have outsourced their critical thinking of major issues to media, their ability to grasp simple realities withers and suddenly their ability to logically assess situations disappears.  They may have positions which they parrot on any given issue, but not the ability to defend them critically.

The real wake-up call for people is that people whom have been relied upon to provide rational responses and opinions have been outed as being utterly incompetent or incapable of rendering any views at all.  They are like a virus; their stupidity has the ability to infect untold naïve minds.  For example, recently, a politician offered an idea to fight rampant crime in her famously violent city of Chicago.  Her brainstorm: ask gangs to only shoot people at night.

In a previous post, I postulated that a school child will tell you that 2 plus 2 equals 4; not so much because they can prove it, but mostly because the teacher told them it was so.  It’s a rather frightening thing to agree to a set of beliefs just because it’s convenient to agree with everyone else.

Chat GPT, You Will Be Replaced

February 8th, 2023 No comments

link: https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/

For those still hunkered under their beds consumed with worry about the next looming existential threat, the world continues to move forward, despite the efforts by many to impede or shape its direction.  There is a far more concerning issue immediately before mankind and that is the accelerated pace of artificial intelligence capabilities.

The ‘it’ thing at the moment is the increasing awareness of a software interface named ‘Chat GPT’.  While we have been hearing about artificial intelligence for years, this new platform is remarkable because of the scope of its ability and its ease of use.  You do not need to know formal computer-speak to use the interface; it operates using normal language inputs.

The range of subjects is apparently unlimited as people have even used it to write computer code for applications.  Suddenly, students will be able to write essays in seconds rather than cribbing off their pals.  The only clue to the veracity will be the lack of spelling and grammatical errors common among all students these days.  The world will be changed in ways we can’t even imagine, even at this early stage.

As a simple test of its ability, I tasked the program with writing something about Canada’s national broadcasting network, the CBC.  As an aside, the notion that Canada, or any nation for that matter needs a ‘national broadcasting’ outlet is preposterous.  It may as well be Xinhua or Pravda.  Does Canada need an ‘official’ outlet to impart information to the public? Certainly not in today’s world where information is as easy to access as turning on a faucet.

Come to think of it, the CBC’s role is exactly like that of Xinhua and Pravda.  They are all tasked with conveying the ‘official’ version and view of events to ensure that the people think properly; or in the CBC’s case, ensure ‘da Canadian values’.  Ever since the CBC lost the broadcast rights to Hockey Night In Canada, they’ve been searching for a reason to exist.  Without that revenue generator, they would perpetually lose money.  Fortunately, the government subsidizes them every year with buckets of tax money.  According to Perplexity.ai, it costs somewhere between 1 and 1.3 billion dollars a year to run it and approximately 200 million is from tax dollars.

So, back to the Chat GPT discussion.  As an experiment to gauge the ability of the software, I entered “write a humorous article about the outdated need for a national broadcasting company in Canada”.    I entered no statistics, no historical context and I didn’t even mention the word, CBC.  Below is the result, verbatim and it took about 10 seconds.

Once upon a time, in a land not too far away, there was a national broadcasting company known as the CBC. It was the go-to source for all the latest news, weather, and sports in Canada. But, as the years went by, technology advanced, and suddenly, the CBC found itself in a bit of a predicament.

You see, the world had changed, and people no longer relied on the CBC for their daily dose of information. With the rise of the internet and social media, the national broadcasting company had become nothing more than a relic of the past.

And so, the CBC found itself in a bit of a pickle. It didn’t know what to do or where to turn. It tried to keep up with the times by launching its own website and even starting a YouTube channel, but it was too little too late.

The CBC realized that it was no longer relevant, and it was in dire need of a makeover. So, it decided to take its fate into its own hands and do the one thing that was sure to bring it back into the spotlight – it decided to embrace its outdatedness.

And that’s when the real magic happened. The CBC suddenly became the most hip and trendy national broadcasting company around. People couldn’t get enough of its old-school charm, and the CBC was once again the talk of the town.

No longer did people dismiss it as outdated and irrelevant. Instead, they saw it as a refreshing change from the constant barrage of information that they encountered every day on their screens. The CBC was the perfect escape from the digital world, and people loved it.

So, the moral of this story is that sometimes, being outdated is not such a bad thing after all. In fact, it can even be a blessing in disguise. So, the next time you find yourself feeling like a relic from the past, just embrace it, and who knows, you might just become the coolest thing around.

In conclusion, the need for a national broadcasting company in Canada may be outdated, but it’s still as important as ever. After all, who wouldn’t want a little bit of old-school charm in their lives every now and then?

While the prose is not exactly the stuff of white papers, it did capture the context of the CBC’s role in our modern society with reference to such as ‘outdated and irrelevant’.  With the advent of free resources as Chat GPT, who needs to spend 1.3 billion on the CBC?