Robots, they tell me, will not take over the world

I'm not worried about the world ending in a nuclear explosion or an alien invasion.

The robots are what scares me.

I am not the only person who worries about robots taking over the world, a quick Google search confirmed. I've been reassured by those who say that robots and AI lack the desires and motivations - say for world domination - that humans do. Others point out that robots and AI are programmed by people and operate within those set limits.

But we've all seen the movies - from "2001: A Space Odyssey" dating all the way back to 1968 to the more recent robot-gone-rogue films like the "Terminator" series and "I, Robot." Artificial intelligence has even been cast as a replacement son ("AI: Artificial Intelligence") and a romantic lead ("Her").

And have you seen what AI can do?

I took an online quiz from The New York Times to see if I could tell which faces were made

by AI. I could not.

I only identified two of the 10 correctly. I thought all five AI images were real people and thought three of the five real images were AI. (Are they sure about the guy with the mustache and the beard being real?)

And have you seen videos of the world's most advanced robot? Ameca is a humanoid robot created by Engineered Arts in Cornwall, England. When asked, Ameca said, "(R)obots will never take over the world. We're here to help and serve humans, not replace them."

One of its founders, Morgan Roe, offered this reassurance when interviewed on "This Morning," a British daytime show: "It won't take over the world one day 'cause we can turn it off. You've got an on-off button."

We've seen how that works out.

Apparently, according to Roe, the risks of AI are much greater than the risks of robots. Great.

Of course I'm already familiar with one risk that hits pretty close to home. Instead of monkeys with typewriters, the latest threat to writers comes from AI.

ChatGPT-4 - along with passing bar exams, LSATs, SATs and AP exams - can write responses of up to 25,000 words (this column is about 585 words, for comparison).

This is causing concern for many, especially in the field of education. Responses from several Hinsdale Central students were part of a New York Times piece titled, "What students are saying about learning to write in the age of AI."

I was particularly encouraged by this response from Aditya, whose last name was not provided.

Aditya wrote about the "satisfaction and authenticity" that come from writing.

"When you write, it causes you to think deeply about a topic and come up with an original idea," Aditya wrote. "You uncover ideas which you wouldn't have thought of previously and understand a topic for more than its face value. It creates a sense of clarity, in which you can generate your own viewpoint after looking at the different perspectives."

I agree. Writing helps me think, and thinking, as we know, is good. Otherwise, we could end up living in a dumbed-down society like the one in the 2006 film "Idiocracy." Folks in this futuristic world think it's a good idea to "water" plants with a sports drink instead of actual water. Fortunately, a guy who wakes up after spending 500 years in a top-secret government hibernation program is able to save the world with a little H2O.

The more I think about it, maybe we human writers do have plenty of job security. Who else but a human could think up that plot?

- Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean