It’s hard to believe that only five years ago the word/acronym AI was barely seen outside the science pages, and even then solely in the most speculative way: as something that might happen, in a few decades, maybe, if you’re the dreamy type. But also maybe not.
Now there literally isn’t a day that goes by without some new AI revelation/epiphany/scare story. Just looking at the AI news right now, when we are all meant to be stuffed into silence by the last of the Nyetimber and cold goose-fat potatoes, I can see these headlines: ‘Rise of AI fuels looming water crisis for the world’, ‘Big Tech outspends venture capital firms in AI investment frenzy’, ‘Artificial intelligence promises to transform diagnosis of heart disease’, ‘Huge evolution in AI and deepfakes puts people at risk of festive scams’ and – a personal favourite – ‘I was shocked: my husband was using AI to write our children’s bedtime stories’ (what a clever idea).
Many of these stories – ‘Tesla Robot attacks engineer’, ‘The “super” AI models that could soon upend the economy’, ‘Why AI is a disaster for the climate’, ‘University of Oxford professor issues warning over AI’ – come edged with panic. Indeed: more than panic. A kind of existential dread often overtakes us, as we see ourselves pitted against a superior AI worker, and inevitably coming off worse: hurled from most of our favourite jobs, left to idly wander a dessicated and robotified world, occasionally cadging our Universal Basic Income so we can chew gum, masturbate (to AI porn) and play mindless AI video games.
And, yes, some of this fear is already justified. Take another item from the most recent news, December’s advent of a new version (v6) of the image creation AI software Midjourney. Two years ago – yes, just two years ago – Midjourney was creating images like this:
The other day I asked the new Midjourney to recreate an image like this, but to include Taylor Swift, and to put her in the trenches of World War One.