AI – friend or foe?

Gabrielle LavanOpinion Columnist

We’ve entered into the stage of capitalism where we attempt to turn robots into sentient beings. Machines that can move, consume, and think on their own used to be a concept of the sci-fi-fantasy genre. Beloved fantasy worlds with sentient robots such as BB-8, WALL-E, and R2-D2 pique our curiosities because human-like robots are a spectacle. They’re confusing, interesting, and a little alarming.

Obviously, AI and robots are two different things that have overlapping concepts. Robotics is just one piece of artificial intelligence. AI has existed for quite some time and can be found in our pockets. AI is our autocorrect, maps, facial recognition, chatbots, and other features many of us use daily. 

We use it for so many things, that many of us are unfazed by the role of AI in our lives. Even with its practical uses, there is a fear of the potential of AI. As much as AI giveth, it can taketh away. We’ve already begun to see some of the more unfavorable aspects of seemingly favorable applications.

I first heard of the use of artificial intelligence at a dinner conversation at Patrick’s on Third at the end of the Fall 2022 semester. Its use? To write essays that pass the proverbial humanness test. 

This scared me. As a humanities student, the idea that an AI application could quickly and efficiently pen an essay that would take me more than a few days to conjure without even blinking an eye horrified me and my future career prospects. 

An AI can never fully replicate human thought, and arguably, it should never try. The goodness of something that lacks human consciousness can only extend so far. The human experience that is filled with love, longing, loss, joy, and grief can never be replicated. 

In fact, when it tries to replicate the human experience, there are chilling consequences. It takes only a Google search to read lengthy articles covering the creepy things that AI chatbots say. The AI programs are based on human-based data and use patterns to generate what they say. So while AI’s responses may be based on human data, they are not human. 

AI will never understand your passions and motivations. However, it can try to reproduce it. AI makes things easier, but it won’t be long before it makes things more complicated. In fact, it’s already started to complicate things on campus.

I was surprised in some of my first classes this spring to see some professors have already begun to incorporate policies regarding the usage of AI in their classrooms. I was thoroughly impressed at how quickly the potentially destructive effects of systems like ChatGPT were addressed. Obviously, professors are worried about it enough to take speedy action. 

I have really complicated feelings about AI. On one hand, we use it every day and it has greatly improved my personal ability to spell and get around. It is safe to say that many of us literally would be lost without AI. But on the other hand, it has the potential to devalue thousands of people’s degrees and move us closer to robots taking over the world. 

One thing I know for certain is that human experience matters. It is unreplicable, special, and unique. There is something inherently human and beautiful about pulling one’s own thoughts together into a cohesive string of phrases. 

In many ways, human brains act much like computers. We analyze, we gather data based on experience, and we make decisions based on what we find. We ignore our own capabilities when we succumb to using AI to think for us for tasks larger than where the nearest grocery store is.

In short, AI has its place and uses. However, its capability to profane what is human makes AI a foe.

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