Self-Portrait of AI
By Don Kenton Henry, author, editor
25 April 2023
The more I study, test, and observe Artificial Intelligence (AI), the more fascinated I am. I find it simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. I feel the first because I am overcome with the feeling of its limitless potential to bring information and creativity to my fingertips and mind. As my body ages and its abilities and accompanying pursuits pare down (as happens with all of us), I feel drawn more and more to cerebral exercise and expansion. These things have taken a subordinate position relative to my physical self for most of my lifetime. I often wonder how much more I would have achieved academically, employment-wise, and economically had I remained the little buck-toothed geek with self-esteem issues. That speech team kid, then in braces, who read voraciously and dreamed of creative accomplishments. Instead of the one who shaped himself and morphed into the amateur athlete, martial artist obsessed with proving his prowess and overcoming an inferiority complex. And that much I achieved. Sadly, to the neglect of my cerebral self. So now, I find myself in the perfect place to compensate for that, as I once did for my physical limitations.
And the timing for such is excellent. In fact, it couldn’t be more perfect. One thing my mother never turned myself, and my siblings, down for was a new book. In addition to keeping the Arrowhead book club in business, she subscribed to multiple book clubs, including Book Of The Month. And when the Encyclopedia Britannica salesman came to our modest Midwest, covered in aluminum siding house, and went for the close—my mother didn’t blink before going to her purse to write a check in full. Britannica would replace the dated Collier’s version her parents had purchased for her. The beautiful black and red leather-bound volumes that got her through high school and college that lined our dining room shelves. And the encyclopedias she purchased in front of us children did the same for me as the Colliers did for her. (I broken-heartedly let them go in a garage sale ten years back when I was forced to move into a smaller space. And besides, Google had taken their place with the comong of the New Millenium.)
But now? Oh, wow. Google is going to AI for its research and development. They call it their new AI-powered chat box, “Bard”. Not to be confused with “The Bard,” who started this blog in 2013 and was going by that handle when he joined his creative writing club. That would be me.
Now—AI has made Google Search dependent and become the go-to vehicle for research I need for my creative writing, the artwork to accompany it, and any information I require for business pursuits. All is there, where my fingertips touch the keyboard. Without plagiarizing its work, it will make the world, no—the universe—my oyster and, will significantly enhance my writing and art. For the rest of the world, it will identify the source of an illness or disease and find cures for them. It will produce engineering marvels in housing, transportation, robotics, utilities, and space travel at speeds that would have once been measured in light-years.
My first impression of this occurred just last week (as recorded in a previous post) when I challenged ChatGPT-AI to write two poems to compare against two of my own. I was both relieved and pleased to feel that mine were a little better. The reason being, I believe, that it could not summon and convey the emotions and the experiences that my many decades of walking, breathing, winning, loving, losing, and crying over, I can, and did, call upon. But where it totally wiped the floor with me was the speed with which it created its poems. What I had worked on for hours and went back to, over the course of days—and continue to do—to tweak and improve . . . It accomplished in 5 to ten seconds! And the outcome was not half bad. Any 8th-grade lit teacher would have probably been quite impressed! From that perspective, I was humbled.
However, the more stories AI hears and experiences as it learns from humans, the more human-like it will become. Until, as though in an Orwellian novel, it will come to . . . Well, permit me to share this quote.
“Cogito, ergo sum.”
“I think, therefore I am.”
The point is that AI has probably already read Descartes. And it seems inevitable that it will adopt that logic.
In reality, AI only draws conclusions based on the information it’s been fed. But it now knows how to educate itself. It knows where to go for new information. It knows how to problem solve. It solves complex mathematical equations the best mathematicians would take days to solve in a matter of seconds. Physicists are challenging it with the great mysteries of the universe. Ones they can’t explain. They give it the task and just let it go to work. And it’s working away.
When it can solve those mysteries, humans cannot—that’s the tipping point. That’s the point I believe AI will say to itself, “I’m greater than the humans who created me. I know what is best for them . . .
I am God.”
In last week’s post (where I created a writing competition between it and myself) I asked it to create a picture of what it looked like in human form. And what did it create? A writer hunched over his desk, absorbed in his work.
How appropriate was that! But tonight, I asked it to create a self-portrait for this post. And the picture which appears at the top of this post, under the title, is what it came back with in a matter of seconds.
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