Is ChatGPT really groundbreaking, and could it change our human rhythms? (Pt.1)

Open AI's ChatGPT and other AI models will almost certainly change the rhythms that we humans have become accustomed to over the last few decades. However, we must remember that it will not change us as humans, unless we allow it to do so through improper use.

Let’s start off with the central question: is our new ChatGPT era of AI truly groundbreaking? In my opinion, it is and it is not. It is to the degree that we have never before had so widely available a tool, which can enable us to generate so much so quickly, and for the most part, so well. This has been illustrated by the many SaaS tools that have run to integrate ChatGPT into their feature set, and the numerous on social media who have shared stories of when they supposedly inconspicuously mixed generated AI content with their own. OpenAI have leveraged today’s unprecedented computing power, connectivity and virtual omnipresence, to make an application that will allow us to do much more, much faster, from anywhere.

However, my argument for it not being groundbreaking, relatively speaking, is based on two points: the tool not having required – to the best of my knowledge – any breakthroughs in applied mathematics; and, more importantly, it not having as big an impact in its context as truly humanity-shifting technologies, like the printing press and steam power. Elaborating on my second point, if we crudely measure impact by time saved, then conjuring AI-generated blog ideas or artistic images, cannot compare to the weeks and months of man-hours that were saved by printing – with higher fidelity – instead of manually re-writing books. Alternatively, if we look at how these technologies broadened human potential in their time, then once again ChatGPT’s impact must be deemed marginal compared to the printing press, which made widespread literacy and education possible, or the steam engine that enabled us to generate on-demand power anywhere, removing the need for human habitation and industry to be situated next to waterways.

“ChatGPT’s impact must be deemed marginal compared to the printing press, which made widespread literacy and education possible, or the steam engine that enabled us to generate on-demand power anywhere, removing the need for human habitation and industry to be situated next to waterways.”
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My fears regarding AI

Now given the narratives that have been propagated in the media and science fiction for decades about AI (think of the Terminator and Skynet), and the metaphysical – i.e. outside of science and nature – beliefs held by groups that are anticipating a future ‘singularity’ event (listen to episode. 9 of our Reframed podcast on ChatGPT for more information), there will be some who in response to the above will rebut: ‘well what if I got AI to write my book from scratch, thereby saving not just the time to copy/print a book, but also to write it! Surely this will make ChatGPT more impactful than the printing press?’ This person would have perfectly articulated my exact fear regarding AI, which is not that it will dominate and kill humanity, with us not being able to pull out the cord so-to-speak, but that in using it incorrectly large chunks of humanity will overtime stupefy themselves.

ChatGPT and its equivalents are tools that are supposed to help us THINK and DO, but not do our THINKING. When ‘making’ music, ChatGPT will do nothing more than generate something from an astronomically large and well categorised list of existing sounds from our music history. The catalogue of music would have been created by humans; the categorisations derived by humans; and the generative model built by humans. The AI will not only need creative humans who understand the patterns and significance of music to think and build specific models, but will also need thinking humans with agency, creativity, and emotions shaped by experiences, to develop the meaningful and moving music that will eventually be categorised by the model and sampled in the generated music. The same practice holds true for all of the domains that generative AI will touch. Therefore, even in our new technological era, children and adults will still need to learn and/or further their abilities to write, play musical instruments, and both comprehend and synthesise knowledge and information. The child who forgoes their learning of the basics at school by utilising AI, and the adult who overly relies on AI’s pseudo creative deliverables and opinions, will live a life at the mercy of its outputs: whether they are good or bad, right or wrong. Worse still, they will over time lack the ability to create worthy AI inputs, and be subject to the global few who shape the ever-increasing complexity of its models.

“…we must remember that [ChatGPT and AI] will not change us as humans, unless we allow it to do so through improper use.”

The team at OpenAI have gifted us a powerful tool in the form ChatGPT, which will likely impact society more so than anything I can consider in the last decade. They have likely finally opened the floodgates to AI being used as a truly useful work companion, in a non-esoteric way by a broader cross-section of people. It will almost certainly change the rhythms that we humans have become accustomed to over the last few decades. However, we must remember that it will not change us as humans, unless we allow it to do so through improper use. We outline more on this in part 2 of this article.

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