Washington • The alien invasion has begun.
Some experts say that when AI takes off, it will be like Mars landing on the National Mall.
So far, our brain children, as roboticist Hans Moravec called our artificially intelligent offspring, are at the toddler stage, as we are in our newness of creation. They are heading into rebellious adolescence. When artificial intelligence rushes into adulthood and isn’t artificial anymore, we’ll be relegated to the status of family pets, said the resigned Steve Wozniak.
Silicon Valley is reeling from the ingenuity of an experimental chatbot called ChatGPT, which was released by OpenAI in late November and deemed “scary well” by Elon Musk. Musk, co-founder of Sam Altman, has left and is now a Microsoft partner.
There’s a concern that ChatGPT – couldn’t they come up with a better name, like HAL? It will eliminate millions of jobs. Why hire a college graduate if a robot can do the same work faster and cheaper? No more arguments about work from home rules, no more union fights. You don’t need to tempt an AI back to the office with pizza.
ChatGPT opens a Pandora’s box of existential anxieties. The Silicon Valley genius has talked about safeguards and kill switches for AI, but you know they’re not going to pull the plug when their kid turns out to be M3gan.
Once AI can run disinformation campaigns at lightning speed, will democracy stand a chance? We seem to be heading towards a matrix where “it will become cheaper to show fakes than to show reality,” Jaron Lanier, the father of virtual reality, writes at Tablet. Will bad actors use AI to promote bigotry or hijack nuclear weapons?
As Musk once told me of his concerns about artificial intelligence: “It’s cool when the emperor is Marcus Aurelius. It’s not cool when the emperor is Caligula.”
Several years ago, I interviewed the founders of OpenAI in San Francisco, as well as other residents of the Valley. That’s when I realized we were doomed. For the Lords of the Cloud, as they shape their nifty new world, we’re VCRs.
That is why I feel free to step back and let the breeze with our first masters. I read that you can use advanced artificial intelligence to meet historical figures. So I interviewed my dream with Shakespeare, bantering with the poet.
“Greetings sir or madam,” said ChatGPT, who embodies Shakespeare.
What is your response to someone who thinks The Merchant of Venice is anti-Semitic?
He replied, “While it is true that some of the language and imagery used in the play could be considered offensive by modern standards, Shylock is a complex, multifaceted character, villain and victim.”
The Bard of Avon, as it called itself, warned that while the Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love was “whimsical,” it “should not be taken as a realistic representation of my life.”
Can you write me a love poem?
He could, though, as he said, he was “just a machine”. One passage reads: “With eyes shining like stars on the sea, lips sweet as ripe summer fruit, you are the one my heart longs to see, and in your beauty all my dreams are rooted.”
Shakespeare, it is not. I keep telling him, I’d like to be a heroine in a Shakespearean comedy! It took ChatGPT just moments to write “The Clever Maid”.
Act One, Scene One: The Grand Ball is being held at a great estate. You, fair maiden, are present, dressed in the finest gowns. Yet you are not there to dance and rejoice, for you have a secret mission.
Act Two, Scene One: You sneak away from the ball and make your way to the estate’s library. There, you discover a hidden door that leads to a secret room. Inside, you find a chest full of precious gems.
Act Three, Scene One: When you admire the jewels, you hear a noise. He is your landlord, a rich and arrogant nobleman. He catches you in the act but instead of punishing you, your wit and charm take him.
Act Four, Scene One: The nobleman reveals that the jewels were a test of character and that he was looking for a smart, intelligent woman to be his wife. You are very happy and accept his proposal.
“Act V, Scene I: The play ends with a grand wedding and a celebration of your wit and wit.”
It looks more like a Salma Hayek heist movie. I spent the rest of the afternoon soliciting love poems from John Donne, Emily Dickinson, and Edgar Allan Poe, who called me a “pop-up columnist.” I tried channeling Sylvia Plath, but ChatGPT told me that would be “inappropriate”.
The most entertaining imitation was when AI Kendrick Lamar wrote me a rap: “Listen, I’ve got a story to tell,” about a journalist sharp as a nail. She has the pen and the power, to make politicians shudder.”
At this time, ChatGPT is writing, not writing. The creative spark requires humanity. But soon, AI could be sentient. Then we’ll need our dog bowls.
Maureen Dodd He is a columnist for New York times.