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Friday, April 12, 2024

How excited should we be for the future of artificial intelligence?

Disruptive technologies have impacted our lives in innumerable ways. Electric cars, virtual reality, 5G and numerous other genius human accomplishments have changed the way we live. But, the latest breakthrough in tech is artificial intelligence (AI). 

As a student, I see how it impacts both students' ability to complete their schoolwork and professors’ teaching styles. However, with this added ease for students comes an added pressure for professors.

Hours of lecturing can now be replaced with a simple prompt and some elementary follow up questions. I’ve witnessed first-hand that teachers are making learning content we can’t get from AI their top priority in class. It makes sense. What is the purpose of going through the entire college process just to have a computer do the exact same thing in significantly less time? 

Making sure there is a distinction between the capabilities of humans and those of AI should be a top priority — otherwise, our day to day lives would seem merely superficial. But as AI constantly increases its own capabilities, this becomes a seemingly impossible task. 

The generative AI chatbot known as ChatGPT has taken college campuses by storm. Now, the popularity and power of ChatGPT have led to an AI arms race with major tech firms such as Google and Microsoft squaring off at the top. 

The speed at which new technologies are being released is remarkable. This innovation is fueled by competition and, of course, money. However, AI may be a disruptive technology — one we might not want gaining power too quickly. For all of the good that comes out of AI, it’s also important to be mindful of the dangers that can come from it. Unlike electric cars, virtual reality and 5G, AI has the capability to act in human-like ways, reeling in a whole new list of issues. 

Earlier this year, AI engines from Google and Microsoft passed the “Turing test.” The Turing test is administered by a human on an AI engine. If the interrogator is unable to distinguish the AI responses from the human responses, then AI has passed the test. 

Most of these questions are not centered around high-level intelligence but rather on language cues and elementary level problem solving. Before the development of these chatbots, passing the Turing test was a rarity, to say the least. Now, it seems ever more common

This accelerated development of AI being indistinguishable from humans is dangerous. For example, AI can now engage in manipulation and initiate a task as simple as a common scam. This isn’t to say we have reached “The Terminator” levels, where the human race could be at risk, but it is certainly important to monitor as the capabilities of AI increase.

Additionally, equipping bad actors with this kind of AI could have catastrophic impacts throughout the world. As a result, AI experts and global tech leaders such as Elon Musk recently called for a pause in the development of this powerful technology. 

In an interview with Yoshua Bengio, often referred to as the “Godfather of AI,” Musk said, “We’ve reached the point where these systems are smart enough that they can be used in ways that are dangerous for society.” This consensus among tech leaders is not a call to action to stop AI development, but rather to understand how to control the AI that is developed before it is further developed. 

Ensuring we can control AI before rushing to expand it seems like common sense; however, as history heeds, greed often takes control of people when they stumble upon an opportunity as lucrative as AI could be. To simply hope every AI specialist across the world will slow down for the purpose of safety is not something to bet on. 

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So, next time ChatGPT is doing your math homework or writing your 10 page essay for your class, keep in mind the consequences of this intelligence as well as its benefits. AI could be the answer to humans’ most complex problems or the downfall of all our previous accomplishments. 

Gianluca Sacco is a sophomore at UW-Madison studying Economics and Political Science. Do you agree that Artificial Intelligence requires increased vigilance? Send all comments to

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