Arguably, no technological development since the harnessing of the atom has generated the combination of terror and unbridled optimism as artificial intelligence (AI). Are the predictions, positive or negative, just so much hype? Or are they prescient? Or (worst case) understated? And what considerations are we missing in these discussions?
Of course, a crucial distinction between the two technologies noted above are that the potential threats and benefits of nuclear science were always controlled by some larger force. Bombs might rain from the sky, destroying humanity, or we might achieve the dream of cheap, unlimited electrical power. But it was governments or large corporations doing those things to or for us; ordinary people didn’t have personal arsenals or reactors.
AI, on the other hand, is available to everyone through generative tools like ChatGPT for text and Midjourney for AI art, plus a rapidly growing ecosystem of analytics and other tools. It’s personal. Anyone can use AI tools, whether for bad (hacking, porn) or good (analyzing data, writing better emails).