Artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly is in the news of late in light of concerns about the degree to which AI might interfere with the daily lives of people on Planet Earth. Generative tools that can produce voices, images, sounds, and other aspects of “reality” concern lawmakers, scientists, ethicists, and to an increasing degree, the general public. Extremely life-like, three-dimensional, utterly believable videos could appear to show public figures admitting to horrendous crimes. Worse, the same sorts of realistic videos could show governors and senators and Hollywood stars engaging in sex with children or animals or each other. But those kinds of AI-aided products probably would—today—require human intervention. AI has not developed quite far enough to enable computers to “think” of such ugliness on their own. Or has it? Has AI already crossed the threshold into competition or conflict with human coders and programmers? Until yesterday afternoon, I would have said we are a long way from having to worry about science fiction mutating into reality. An experience yesterday revealed just how incredibly capable AI has become. My understanding of that remarkable capability came very late; computer gamers have long been exposed to AI’s stunning abilities. Knowing only a little about the amazing capabilities of AI in virtual reality (VR) games, I can easily imagine AI being released “into the wild” with instructions to pursue nefarious objectives.
My introduction to VR yesterday afternoon took place in the home of a couple; good friends. He, an aficionado of VR games, was introduced to the entertainment genre by wife’s son. She seems to enjoy VR games, but is not as much of a fan as he. From the moment I put on the VR goggles, I knew I was in for an extraordinary experience. I controlled much of what I saw by moving my eyes and my head. But my control did not extend to defending myself against an attack by a monstrous white shark. I could dodge it a bit, but I had no control over its movements. AI controlled them; and AI’s control of its movements were made, in part, in response to movements I made. Another experience, in which I was riding in a roller-coaster car and shooting lasers at clowns and zombies, was even more realistic. My understanding of VR is that the latest VR equipment and games have evolved so that the imagery and motions are even clearer, crisper, and more realistic than what I saw. My brief introduction to VR games very likely was the beginning of what I expect will be an ongoing fascination and a desire to have other VR experiences. But it also clarified for me just how advanced AI has gotten; and I am sure AI in VR games is not nearly as sophisticated as state-of-the art AI. The AI that may have the potential of upending society. If nothing else, my experience yesterday opened me up to an exciting opportunity to explore what seems to be pure magic; or, in the wrong initiators’ hands, hell on Earth.
Ach! It’s late. I’m off to pick up an order of groceries. The day rushes by at the speed of thought!