Lately we have been seeing many things around AI and most prominently was the advent of ChatGPT, which brought AI within the average person’s viewpoint. Also here on OpenSourcerers we have had some articles around AI and ML lately, just scroll down through the list (one entry point is also linked also below)..
What I’m going to quickly talk about in this blog entry is how I perceive these developments and add some recommendations on how to deal with them.
To start: The CEO of IBM just a couple of days ago mentioned that the combination of Cloud Computing (see, what I wrote one year ago about its history here: https://open011prod.wpengine.com/2022/05/23/history-of-cloud/), AI and Quantum Computing will be an as important inflection point as the creation of the world wide web, or as the invention of computing. You can watch Arvind’s keynote for IBM’s Think 2023 here: https://www.ibm.com/events/think/hybrid-cloud-and-ai/).
In that presentation we can see and feel that new technologies create at least two types of reactions:
As we have seen in the past, technological (sometimes sadly) evolution can not be undone, so we all need to somehow cope with its outcomes. This is a thing where a balance between being excited about its possibilities and the fear about its negative consequences for humankind need to be looked at at the same time. Therefore we need to do two things:
- Understand the technology and its implications
- Help humankind in tackling this new technology
The aspect of introduction to AI and ML can be easily done here: https://open011prod.wpengine.com/2023/03/06/huggingface-ai-goes-opensource/
An introduction to Quantum Computing can also be found here: https://open011prod.wpengine.com/2022/05/09/quantum-computing-how-to-start-and-how-to-hello-world/
What we now need is an educated approach to getting an understanding of what the combination of these things might lead to.
Some high profile people from the tech industry therefore asked the industry to pause any further development of AI for six months, to allow humankind to get a better understanding of that mentioned new inflection point. See here: https://futureoflife.org/open-letter/pause-giant-ai-experiments/
That’s, at least to my thinking, a good idea, but as with many good ideas, they might get ignored. Therefore we somehow need to look at fundamental approaches to these concerns.
The two books that I read when I was in my teenage years which made me move into IT, and which I still remember and value, are the following:
- Tracy Kidder, The Soul of A New Machine, 1981, reprint still available, for example here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0316491977/
- Joseph Weizenbaum, Computer Power and Human Reason, 1976, reprint still available, for example here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0716704633/
Kidder succeeded in describing the massive excitement that new (IT-)technology can have on the people working in developing it, whereas Weizenbaum early on saw the dangers of de-humanizing human interactions by using machines (note: “Eliza” can still simply be started in every GNUEmacs editor instance by simply typing):
<META><X>doctor<ENTER>Code language: HTML, XML (xml)
So I was also torn between being cautious and being excited when I studied and started working in IT in 1983. I still do recommend these two books to everyone, because they put into perspective, what happens and can happen.
Another book, which also helps in understanding better what options we have and what might happen, is the second book from Harari’s “Sapiens” series: Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, 2017, available for example here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0062464345/
He also published an opinion paper in The Economist, which requires a registration so this is for reference for those, who can access it: https://www.economist.com/by-invitation/2023/04/28/yuval-noah-harari-argues-that-ai-has-hacked-the-operating-system-of-human-civilisation
And, as we are now looking at the list of people who signed that memorandum to stop development of AI for 6 months, there is also a former colleague of mine whom I value for his capabilities in putting things into perspective, Alessandro Perilli. Decades ago he was the brain behind https://virtualization.info. He started a new webpage looking at AI and its influence on work environments, called: https://synthetic.work/ I’m looking forward to each of his newsletters every Friday to end my labor week.
I hope I was able to provide you with a couple of ideas on how to deal with this new hype and inflection point in our life and specifically in the IT industry.
Some further recommendations I got from colleagues are:
And last but not least:
And as a small final remark and teaser: Red Hat also is doing something in that area, see: https://www.redhat.com/en/technologies/cloud-computing/openshift/openshift-data-science