24 May 2024

Many months are still to go for 2024, but perhaps the understatement of the year should go to the one made by Elon Musk, who has predicted a few days ago that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be smarter than any human by the end of next year.

The Tesla CEO and X owner, who is a curious mixture of AI proponent and AI alarmist, has apparently discarded the fact that, for so long now, no human has been able to calculate faster than a simple calculator that anyone would throw into a trash can nowadays, and that a supercomputer can win a chess match against any world champion.

In short, AI is “already” smarter than any human. We just don’t realise it yet or we simply refuse to accept the proud fact that human beings are the only species known to have created something smarter than themselves.

The “next year” prediction more or less envisages AI in some kind of definite shape, form or network, not in an omnipresent state like electricity, which is disappearing into walls or underground.

Once in a while people get excited by AI-generated “deepfakes”, superfast “chatbots”, or writing or translation marvels, but that is just the greatest trick AI has ever pulled.

It’s a lot more than that. AI makes people afraid of big advances while at the same time unable to live without small, relatively-unnoticeable developments added into new mobile phones or other devices every day.

It doesn’t matter if we are anxious, astounded, enthusiastic or downright fearful. It’s inevitable. Computers’ computing power doubles every 18 months according to scientists’ estimates made many years back. (Meaning the doubling rate can be considerably faster now.)

The most-informed technological experts have been more or less wrong about the speed of advancement, with almost every single one of them underestimating how quickly technology will move forward.

Thai-created AI beat chess players at www.playok.com for fun with stunning moves that few human beings could have anticipated.

This is despite the belief that there could be more possible variations of chess games than there are atoms in the observable universe.

Renowned physicist Michio Kaku years ago said that a “singing card”, which would sing “Happy Birthday to You” to the recipient, contained a computer chip more powerful than the whole World War II allied forces’ computing powers combined.

“Hitler and Eisenhower would kill to have that chip,” he said. “What do we do with the chip now? We throw it into the dustbin.”

Jules Verne, the most scientifically-imaginative author of his time and was even considered the father of science fictions, once said basically that it would take only “weeks” to travel across America by something that floated in the air.

The moral of the above comments is simply that nobody has a clue of what has been transpiring.

Not even Musk. He seemed to base his prediction on human competition, like between the United States and China or between his tech empire and OpenAI.

But his own forecast seems to render the human competition irrelevant. To put it into perspective, do men ever worry about smart dogs?

If Musk is right, or if he’s predicting something that already has happened, we are dogs in AI’s eyes, and it does not matter what we do.

As long as the world remains divided politically and everyone is competing economically, AI evolution will continue to be fast and furious. Phone makers will seek to ensure that their products are smarter than their rivals’.

The same goes for the producers of other devices, or vehicles, or weapons. Every status quo feeds the unbelievably-speedy development.

The Clueless, a Barcelona-based company, has created Aitana Lopez who has more than 300,000 Instagram followers although she’s not real. She (or it) is part of a mission to redefine the world of influencers, now dominated by human beings who have been using AI with wild abandon.

What a project manager said about the Aitana phenomenon might have escaped most people’s attention.

“Virtual models, being digital, present a more economical alternative,” she explained a few days ago, while pointing out the “rising costs” associated with human influencers.

Smartness shall not be quantified. That human beings still “control” a lot of things shall never be taken to mean that AI is still not smarter. AI may just try to make us believe, for its own good, that we are still in charge.

There is one theory, though, that can upend all of the above.

Are we AI ourselves? The fact that we humans can cry, or love, or feel pain, does nothing to the possibility that we are actually a higher form of what we are in awe of.

This seemingly-spiritual theory has it that human beings may be something generated by highly-advanced AI.

In other words, AI actually gave birth to itself by creating human beings first, programming them to evolve in a way that they would one day create something so smart that it would eliminate impossibilities one by one and get smarter and smarter in the process.

It sounds like a science-fiction time-travelling loop, and many, particularly the advocates of mainstream religions, will frown at this, but don’t count the theory out completely. As they say, any sufficiently-advanced technology is indistinguishable from divinity.

Tulsathit Taptiim