July 23, 2024
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Four Questions AI Must Answer Now

It normally takes a little longer than this for new civilization-changing transformations to face existential challenges, but this is not normal, not by any stretch of the imagination. The “this” we’re talking about is AI, and we already know it’s the most supernormal, preternatural transformation in human history.

Think of the big ones: stone tools, controlled use of fire, clothing, agriculture, alphabets, printing, electricity, industrialization, flight, radio, antibiotics, TV, atomic power, the transistor, the internet, social media. There are more, of course.

Each one reshaped humanity, but if you look carefully, you’ll see a hidden trend. Expand the list to a couple hundred and place them in chronological order, and you’ll see it as plain as day. Each followed its predecessor in less time than its predecessor followed its predecessor. We therefore have, with each change, less time to learn it, apply it and decide what we’ll do with it. That last choice comes down to governance – good versus evil – and with less and less time, it makes our ethical and moral decisions even harder and more consequential. That brings us to AI.

Change, especially in this century, cannot be measured or assessed in traditional terms, because it is so big, so fast and so ubiquitous. And nothing even comes close to AI. It has already displayed its chops as the greatest transformation in human history, bar none.

And that’s why, in short order, AI has made us ask questions that used to take much longer before they were asked. We’re just shy of halfway through 2024 and here are some questions we weren’t even asking in 2023. In particular, there are four existential questions:

  1. Will AI remain a closed system or will it go open?

In a new release of its AI system last year, Meta made the code open source, meaning it can be freely copied, modified or reused by anyone who wants. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, not typically the most popular guy on the planet, made a lot of people happy with that move. Beyond that, though, the existential question has been posed. But remember, the line between freedom and chaos is very thin.

  1. Will AI change the educational standard of the U.S.? And the world?

The nature, pace, and scope of AI’s advancement is so ubiquitous, so fast and so widespread that it’s putting enormous pressure on the available supply of qualified workers worldwide. AI needs more coders than it can find, according to a trusted source of mine. So what are the giants doing about it? They’re heavily recruiting anyone who’s interested, to abandon the idea of a college degree in favor of a certificate or two, many times in free training programs – with a well-paid job waiting at the other end. It’s the diametric opposite of a well-rounded education, but it’s real, like it or not. This does not have to be a self-induced fate, but it required the kind of thought that’s hard to commit to.

  1. Will we continue the debate about regulation vs. untethered development? Or have we thrown in the towel already?

OK, so how do we serve the public interest? By letting developers go wild in a race to who-knows-where, caution thrown to the wind? Or do we become overcautious and probably lose that race? It’s the conundrum of all conundrums.

  1. What – and how long – will the relationship be between the private and public sectors?

In October 1969, a transmission was sent from a computer at UCLA to one at Stanford Research Institute through ARPANET, the precursor to what we now know as the internet. It was two years later that the first of what we’d call emails today was sent. DARPA was behind it. But it wasn’t until 1989 that the internet gained commercial viability, still with DARPA involved. However, as the tale unfolds, email became so big so fast – out of control, in fact – that the government had enough and backed out. No problem there, but it’s a more consequential question with AI in play. The public and private sectors will have to figure out how to forge a long-term – no, permanent – relationship, for better or for worse.

This is not the extent of our existential examination of AI. Not by any stretch of the imagination.


Career Coach Eli Amdur provides top-notch one-on-one coaching in job search, résumés, interviewing, career planning and executive development. Reach him at [email protected] or 201-357-5844.

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