Opinion: Assessing value of AI wisdom


Most of us find our inboxes filled every day with offers, newsletters, promises and threats, nearly always unsolicited, from folks we’ve not heard of and don’t know. “The nation’s leading dietician recommends this tree bark to melt fat,” shouts the headline. Maybe, but probably not. Regardless, we find ourselves confronted with claims to be sorted. This week, a dear friend, unknown until now, named Hadley, urged reading of her recent study that discovered that 1 in 3 good Hoosier workers fear that artificial intelligence, or AI, will take their jobs. While Hadley insinuates that the closeness of our imagined friendship is all that is required to establish her expertise, a reasonable person might question the veracity of her findings.

Still, AI is worthy of further consideration. While it is likely premature to prepare “Terminator” movie-style for the coming hordes of occupying machines, we can see clearly that many of the mundane humans tasks of a generation ago have already been supplanted by “smart” devices. Automobiles do not require tuning, and long-distance telephone calls occur without the intervention of an operator. Good. Rather than lament the emerging technology as cataclysmic, is there a path to its use that benefits those of us that might be replaced? Could this column have been written by a smart bot? Probably, and some will assert that it would be better. Would it follow then that some AI “writer” might garner a following and celebrity? Would we send letters of praise and criticism? Or would we recognize that arguing with an algorithm is unlikely to advance humankind?

If so, does the human element remain essential? Can AI, with all the data in the known universe, come to “feel”?  Will it know fear, hope, longing, pride or envy? Will it teach us how to swim yet never touch the water?