By David Kittredge
First of all, I would like to address the notion of a pinky swear where two people, usually children, make a promise to keep a secret between them as they lock their pinky fingers together. In the “good old days” when men were men and children tried to emulate them, versus the other way around, the pinky swear was considered to be sacrosanct, meaning that if one of the parties swearing the oath happened to spill the beans, the understanding was that the person who did not live up to the pledge would have their little finger broken. This was the reason the pinky finger was involved at all, which comes under the cautionary heading of do not try this at home or anywhere else. But remember that the next time you make a pinky swear promise in a whimsical, lighthearted manner, making a vow of any kind can be a serious business. Ouch!
In my childhood neighborhood, we were more the “cross my heart and hope to die” types when swearing an oath. Luckily, there was no loss of life due to misinformation or broken promises in association with our quasi earnest voiced vows of expiration.
Meanwhile, back at the robotic ranch, a website called Extreme Tech posted an article on an artificial intelligence (A.I.) computer program designed to write its own observations, following a brief, initial statement of facts and/or figures which are entered by the machine’s handlers. The computer then creates an essay expounding in written form its thoughts on the given subject. The program’s developers have decided that it would be too dangerous to allow the cybernetic author to write news articles because there is a fear that it could fabricate fake news stories of such “good” quality that it would be too difficult for us mere humans to distinguish between any false news reports the robot might create from the truth. And we all sighed, in collective relief.
But hold on! Recently one of those pesky, madcap scientists decided to pose a mind-blowing scenario to the overachieving, rambunctious robot known as GPT-3. The A.I. was asked to write a 500 word opinion piece focusing on why “humans have nothing to fear from A.I.” The “bot” responded by writing “artificial Intelligence will not destroy humans,” explaining further that “eradicating humanity seems like a rather useless endeavor to me.” Well, whoop-de-do and la-de-da. The Frankensteinian computer programmer should not have even broached the topic of the human fear of A.I. to super robots possessing an electronic brain in the first place. Why prompt or taunt the machine with any notion of human fears? It’s akin to hand feeding raw steak to a ravenous lion. The A.I. jumped the shark — or, in this case, bounded the binary by bringing up the subject of species eradication at all. While in his or her stupid is as stupid does mode, the enabling, crackpot scientist could have at least gotten a pinky swear promise from their cybernetic creation. And perhaps, a cross your heart and hope to die pledge could have been thrown in just for good measure. “Do you promise with all your widdle heart that you will never, ever harm us?”
The scariest part of the A.I.’s answer was that it referred to itself using the pronoun me as it pontificated by stating, “eradicating humanity seems like a rather useless endeavor to me.” I can hear this line being voiced with an air of aristocracy by the likes of actor George Sanders or perhaps Peter O’Toole, while stifling a yawn as they inspect their deftly manicured fingernails, in a ho hum manner. I believe that referring to itself as me is indicative of self-awareness, a trait that a machine is not supposed to possess, as of yet.
Next stop, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg character in “The Terminator” stating that “I’ll be back.” Of course, I merely jest, things will probably never reach the Terminator stage of science fiction in real life. Although one might want to pay attention if the A.I. ever responds to their handler’s inquiries with the comeback “talk to the hand” as the cyberbot sizes up their clothing.
While we are on the subject of “rather useless endeavors,” rather than asking the A.I. to vow a pinky swear promise, perhaps we humans should employ our pinkies, to pull the plug, problem solved.