Artificial Guessing

/ San Francisco, California

A few more notes about (ugh) AI. I promise I’ll stop at some point but this is basically therapy now and since you aren’t legally obligated to read any further, this is technically your fault.

I have two conflicting feelings about AI, the text generating kind.

First, I see AI as a mirror. Bounce ideas back and forth, edit and cajole the output into non-hallucinatory garbage, all this stuff is kinda magic. AI echoing your own work back to you opens up so many possibilities — you might not have Paul McCartney sat next to you feeding you song ideas and riffing alongside you but instead a drunk computer randomly proclaiming it loves you. Either way, it’s going to be amazing to riff, to play, to experiment.

Second, I see AI as a prison. Slamming AI into products like everyone’s doing right now is mostly an excuse not to think critically about hard problems. Instead of brainstorming, discussing, iterating, closely inspecting a product to understand it and figure out what to show on a page, well, we can just let the machines figure it out for us! This big guessing machine can do our homework and we can all pack up and go to the beach.

In this way, AI is a prison because it traps us, it tricks us. It’s far too easy to forget that what’s happening under the hood is a bunch of similar words being slapped into each other over and over again and then hoping for the best. It’s a charade of intelligence that we mistake for actual intelligence. But alas, Artificial Intelligence sounds much more impressive than Artificial Guessing in a slide deck.

So I get why folks are excited about AI and machine learning and everything else. But I believe that they’re wrong about how and why AI is exciting. It’s not an excuse to turn your brain off, and AI most certainly isn’t the bicycle for the mind that folks believe it to be.

But it can be both of these things at the same time! It can be awful and annoying and impressive!