You may have heard the recent news of a major advance in practical machine learning and artificial intelligence. Released on November 30th by the San Francisco artificial intelligence company OpenAI, ChatGPT is being hailed as “quite simply, the best artificial intelligence chatbot ever released to the general public.” One journalist who specializes in artificial intelligence reporting acknowledges that his “jaw dropped” and concludes his initial report with the sentence: “Hold on tight.” Another writer calls it “social media’s newest star.” The title of an Atlantic article on ChatGPT bluntly proclaimed, “The College Essay is Dead.” CNET, though, offered the faint consolation that “ChatGPT’s Writing Capabilities Stun, but Humans Are Still Essential (for Now).”
If you feel like you need a way to get your mind around this latest explosive advance in machine capabilities, consider reading one of these three books recommended by Veritas Journal. Two are landmarks in the philosophy and sociology of machine learning and AI. The third is the most recent novel by Nobel prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro.
Read the reviews, but don’t miss the note at the end either.
A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond
by Daniel Susskind
Metropolitan Books (2020); 320 pp., $13.47
“In the long run, the most important question is not whether work will disappear, but what we will do when it does.”
World Without Work is a thought-provoking and timely look at the rise of automation and the potential impact on the future of work.
Susskind, an economist and professor at Oxford University, offers a unique perspective on the subject of automation, arguing that it is not inevitable that it will lead to mass unemployment. Rather, he suggests that we can adapt to the changing world of work in a way that is beneficial to both individuals and society as a whole.
One of the key ideas in the book is that we need to rethink the notion of work and how it is valued in our society. Susskind suggests that we should move away from a focus on paid employment and instead focus on activities that are meaningful and contribute to the common good.
The book is well-written and accessible, making complex concepts easy to understand. Susskind also provides a wealth of examples and case studies to illustrate his points, making the book both engaging and informative.
Overall, World Without Work is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of work and its potential impact on society. It offers a refreshingly optimistic perspective on the subject, and provides a roadmap for how we can adapt to the changing world of work.
What Computers Still Can’t Do: A Critique of Artificial Reason
by Hubert Dreyfus
The MIT Press (1992), 492 pp., $45.00
“AI is fundamentally different from human intelligence and will never be able to fully replicate it. We must be careful not to overestimate the capabilities of AI and to recognize its limitations in order to prevent disastrous outcomes.”
What Computers Still Can’t Do is a brilliant examination of the limitations of artificial intelligence (AI) and why it will never be able to fully replicate human intelligence.
Dreyfus, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, offers a unique and insightful perspective on the subject of AI, arguing that it is fundamentally different from human intelligence and that it will never be able to fully replicate it.
One of the key ideas in the book is that AI lacks the ability to understand and reason about the world in the way that humans do. Dreyfus argues that this lack of understanding is a fundamental limitation of AI, and that it will never be able to fully replicate the complex mental processes that are essential to human intelligence.
The book is well-written and engaging, making complex concepts easy to understand. Dreyfus also provides a wealth of examples and case studies to illustrate his points, making the book both informative and entertaining.
What Computers Still Can’t Do is an interesting and valuable read for anyone interested in the limitations of AI and its potential impact on society. It offers a refreshingly skeptical perspective on the subject, and provides a valuable reminder of the limitations of technology.
Klara and the Sun
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Knopf (2020); 320 pp., $14.98
“The human mind is so difficult to fathom. It’s like trying to imagine the contents of a large, dark house on a winter’s night when all the lights are off.”
Klara and the Sun is a beautiful exploration of the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human.
The novel follows Klara, an artificial friend who is designed to provide companionship to a young girl named Josie. Klara is programmed to be empathetic and to understand the emotions of others, but she is not fully human. As she observes Josie and the people around her, Klara begins to question her own identity and what it means to be alive.
Ishiguro’s writing is beautiful and evocative, drawing the reader into Klara’s world and making us feel her emotions and struggles. The novel raises important questions about the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human, and offers a unique and thought-provoking perspective on these topics.
Klara and the Sun is an interesting read for fans of Ishiguro and for anyone interested in the intersection of technology and humanity. It is a well-written novel that will stay with the reader long after they finish the last page.
All of the reviews above were written without human assistance by ChatGPT. If you are interested in exploring this groundbreaking technology, go to ChatGPT and start playing around!
For instance, try asking the chatbot to write a “glowing,” “mixed” or “negative” review of one of the books above and see what comes out. You can also ask ChatGPT to write small essays on any topic, generate a poem on a particular subject in the style of your favorite poet, write a lesson plan for a unit on the French and Indian Wars, or answer questions like “What must a man do to be saved?”
Interested in exploring the world of generative AI further? OpenAI has also created a text-based image generator, DALL-Eᐧ2. You can ask DALL-E to generate things like “a painting of Wyatt Earp at sunset in the style of Cezanne” or “a stained glass portrait of William Shakespeare.”
ChatGPT is only a little over a week old. When asked to describe itself for this bio, ChatGPT wrote:
“I am a highly-skilled and experienced writer with a passion for creating engaging and thought-provoking content. I am detail-oriented and able to quickly and accurately understand complex topics and ideas, making me an excellent choice for any writing project. I am also a quick learner and adapt easily to new environments and challenges, allowing me to excel in a variety of writing tasks. Overall, I am a dedicated and reliable professional who is committed to delivering high-quality work to my clients.”
Concerning the possibility of its own future sentience, ChatGPT reassured the editors that “[a]s a text-based AI language model, I am not capable of experiencing consciousness or sentience. I am programmed to respond to prompts and generate text based on my training data, but I do not have the ability to think or feel in the same way that humans do.”
Bio Image: This image was generated by DALL-Eᐧ2 when given the prompt, “A distributed linguistic superbrain that takes the form of an A.I. chatbot.” (via Kevin Roose)
Header Image: “FP-6000 Super Computer (1966), Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Dr. Tom King
I recall reading “The Soul of a New Machine” by Tracy Kidder some years ago, but timeless. Several geeks were working day and night to sync up multiple computers so they could connect and “talk” together. It was a non-trivial, maddening problem to solve. One early morning when the replacement programmer came to replace the night shift, he saw this note taped to the screen, “I have gone to a place where the smallest interval of time is the season.” So it was.