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A year in AI

09 February 2024

Barry, the u3a Subject Adviser for Artificial Intelligence, explores what AI can do and why it's important for u3a members to learn about AI.

Barry, the u3a Subject Adviser for Artificial Intelligence, explores what AI can do and why it's important for u3a members to learn about AI.

Decorative image - someone using chat AI

 You have probably heard of AI and ChatGPT, which hit the headlines in November 2022.

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. It is a computer mimicking intelligent human behaviour. A computer that accepts text, voice and visual input and generates a text, voice and visual output. Simple? Well, maybe.

When asked to generate an image of ‘a Victorian couple walking hand in hand across St Paul’s Square’ AI can produce an image.

Similarly, when asked to generate ‘a rhyming poem about a u3a couple’, this is what AI comes up with: 

In u3a's embrace, two hearts entwined.
A couple united, their love defined.
Through laughter and learning, their bond grew strong.
In life's golden years, their love song.

Although the responses seem clever, AI does not understand what it has generated and can hallucinate, generate false information. They also reflect the bias of the information they were ‘trained’ on.

Headlines have indicated how AI can be used for good by helping discover new antibiotics, identifying cancers in x-rays or could be used by fraudsters or even take over the world.

As usual the truth is somewhere in between good and evil. AI in itself is neither good nor evil, it is the people behind this technology and the way they use it. 

AI has been around for about 50 years and you have been benefiting from it in the form of SatNav, Alexa, Siri, assisted web searches, credit card fraud protection, etc. ChatGPT introduced a new form of AI, Generative AI.

30 years ago the Internet was the disruptive form of technology that came into our lives, along with web search engines and e-mail. It meant we had easy access to a world of information and could communicate easily with family and friends around the world.

Disruptive technologies always bring benefits, job losses, new jobs and threats. Fraudsters quickly find a way to make money with disruptive technologies. With the Internet they could use viruses and phishing to steal our identities and money. It was in the best interest of the Internet service providers to make their services safe to use. So it is with AI service

Microsoft and Google have integrated AI into their online services in the form of Bing and Bard. Is it safe to use the Internet? Can you trust everything you read on the Internet? No and No are the answers! Similarly treat AI with some skepticism.

2024 will be an exciting year in politics and AI. Fake AI generated images, voices and videos will proliferate. They will require the public to be AI literate, show some common sense about AI. 

I have created a u3a 'AI for everyone' online library - and you can also contact me about a Beginners Guide presentation. Contact me on my u3a Subject Advice Page.

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