A.I.: Utopias and Dystopias

  • January 20, 2023

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By Josie Springer

It’s been a tense question hanging in the air of English classrooms: what is A.I. truly capable of? 

The world has recently been stunned by major advancements in generative artificial intelligence, a technology that allows computers to generate text or images in response to given prompts. This development has far-reaching implications for the future of humanity but, for now, much of the conversation about this technology has centered around its role in abetting plagiarism in schools. Teachers now have to question whether an essay has been written by a human student or an online generative bot like ChatGPT — across the country, there have already been countless cases of high school and college students using bots to write take-home essays. Currently, there is no sure way to distinguish between text written by a human and a bot, even to the most experienced — or digital — eye. An experiment conducted by the New York Times asked a fourth-grade teacher, a professional writing tutor, a Stanford University professor of education, and children’s author Judy Blume to determine whether an essay was written by a fourth grader or by a bot asked to write like a fourth grader. None of these experts could consistently distinguish between essays written by human fourth graders or by binary code. There are detection softwares in development, like the program GPTZero, but their accuracy is unsure, and some Twitter users have proudly declared that they have fooled GPTZero by prompting ChatGPT to avoid its more distinguishable trademarks, like ultra-sophisticated vocabulary. 

These concerns over A.I. ‘s more sinister applications have prompted public outcry for federal limits or bans on the use of these technologies. But these fears shouldn’t overshadow the limitless constructive capabilities of A.I., such as the development of new cancer treatments, conceptual designs for sustainable cities, and creative solutions to global crises, to name a few. 

Ezra Klein, a New York Times opinion columnist, recently published an article titled, “The Dystopia We Fear Is Keeping Us From the Utopia We Deserve”. He explores the hopes and fears that have been raised by recent developments in nuclear fusion, and whether our apprehensions may be holding us back from the possibly transformative technological and societal advancements that it makes available. In addition to flying cars, lunar bases, and undersea cities, Klein argues that “clean, abundant energy is the foundation on which a more equal, just and humane world can be built”: the energy abundance that nuclear fusion could make available would uplift those living in poverty, powering developments in global human rights. Artificial intelligence may someday offer similar leaps for mankind, and, in that case, we shouldn’t handicap its development in its infancy. Our dystopian fears shouldn’t compromise the possibly utopian future that A.I. may help build. 

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