Weekly Column

Is Artificial Intelligence (AI)

out to get us?

by William Gibson White



            In my mind there is evidence that computers are taking over the world. Evidence of this surfaced with Cupcake's and my battles with Microsoft's Windows 10.

            It began with a recent email message to my Computer Guru son, Dewey: "Help! Email won't accept attachments!"

            Reply: "What happens when you try to attach a file to an email?"

            "Dewey, this message appears: 'L20. This device has either stopped responding or has been disconnected.'

            "It happened after I successfully attached two pictures of our wrought iron gates taken from our digital camera and sent to a sand-blaster company to remove several coatings of paint. When I inserted the two pictures I got the 'L20' error but somehow managed to share the photos by email with the company. When I tried to attach my column for you, I got the above message."

            Reply: "Based on the message it looks as if you're attempting to attach a file from your digital camera which is no longer attached to the computer. Reboot your computer. If the problem persists reattach the camera to your computer and eject it properly. To properly eject the camera move mouse over the small icons on the lower right corner of your screen. You should see a text description about ejecting media/camera/drive."

            [Naturally, I only understood the "reboot" instructions.]

            "DIDN'T WORK! Dewey, I've rebooted a few times. Your other instructions did not seem to fit anything on the screen. When I try attachments, I still get the same error message. ANY SUGGESTIONS?"

            Meanwhile, I did more reboots, cussed a lot more and tried it again. This time it worked! I emailed Dewey.

            "HOLD ON! Somehow, I got it to work with another file. If you get this email with an attachment, one of two things happened: Either I, using some of your instruction corrections blundered into fixing the problem, or Microsoft Windows 10 has been upgraded to a thinking, hearing, watching and mind-reading ENIITY. Cupcake and I have been cussing this operation system from the beginning and are seriously considering getting rid of it!"

            Well, he got it with the attached file this time. Don't know if rebooting or my blundering with his instructions fixed the problem. Or, maybe Windows 10 doesn't want to lose us as customers and fixed the problem after listening to our displeasure with it.

            Meanwhile, I've been reading about AI (artificial intelligence) and realized I could use much more smarts—artificial or not. Although too late for Cupcake and me, how soon will it be when at birth each human brain will be implanted with a microchip of world knowledge—including computer repair?

            Got the following from a Time magazine article titled "Are Computers Already Smarter Than Humans?"

            "Computers can take in and process certain kinds of information much faster than we can. They can swirl that data around in their 'brains,' made of processors, and perform calculations to conjure multiple scenarios at superhuman speeds. For example, the best chess-trained computers can at this point strategize many moves ahead, problem-solving far more deftly than can the best chess-playing humans. Computers learn much more quickly, too, narrowing complex choices to the most optimal ones.

            "Computers enjoy other advantages over people. They have better memories, so they can be fed a large amount of information, and can tap into all of it almost instantaneously. Computers don't require sleep . . . [can work] round the clock . . . computers are simply more accurate . . . than we are. They're not affected or influenced by emotions, feelings, wants, needs and other factors that often cloud the judgment and intelligence of us mere mortals."

From the all tech considered web site: CEO Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX says artificial intelligence poses an existential risk to human civilization and calls for regulations to govern it.

            Has Microsoft loaded the apps SIRI (Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface) into Windows 10 without telling its customers? This apps is an "intelligent assistant" that lets users give voice commands to electronic devices and receive verbal answers.

            I guess we will find out if the system starts orally cussing us.


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