The future is rushing in upon us like an unpredictable avalanche, fast and furious. At the root of this calamitous development are advances in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), including artificial general intelligence (AGI), which has become the flavour of all ecosystems around us. Google is reported to have developed a chatbot which is so very good with free flowing conversation on a large number of topics that one of its engineer called it ‘sentient’; he was suitably castigated by being put on administrative leave for his inadvertence. Not to be left behind, another AI adventure from DeepMind has developed a model which can perform over 600 tasks, including playing video games, moving robotic arms, and captioning images.
And now, hot on these heels, comes the news, thick and fast, that some of the AI systems can create a completely unique image from a line of text. If AI can create an image from a line of text, can it convert a film script into a whole movie, if that matters? This text to image synthesis has also raised concerns about irresponsible use of technology. There is talk about a code of ethics for AI professionals.
Not so long ago, the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) had developed an algorithm called Ramanujam machine which reversed the problem solving process; you provide the solution, the algorithm will then tell you the problem which you wanted to solve; fascinating, isn’t it? If this algorithm could be made ‘sentient’, it would solve all the problems of the world including the Ukraine imbroglio and the Sri Lankan .concerns, would it? There will be no room left for political interventions, if at all they were around.
Against this futuristic backdrop, I am reminded of a story which my father used to narrate to regale his audiences in the 1950s. It was about a shoe company, located in the vicinity of a newly developed posh colony of the township in India. It was one of the jewels in the British crown. In due course, due to rapacity of successive proprietors, it fell into bad days and was ultimately taken over by the Government of the independent India and finally passed into history. During its heyday, a Harvard-educated scion of the proprietor of the factory brought a machine which could seamlessly convert cattle into shoes.
You had to herd in sheep or goats or whatever from one end, and, lo and behold, beautiful shoes in different shapes, sizes and colours would come out at the other end. They were automatically and tastefully placed in boxes and shipped to marketing outlets, not automatically though. One fine Sunday morning the gentry in the neighbourhood of the factory woke up to find the streets invaded with sheep and goats. Since it was a posh colony, the constabulary investigated the matter post-haste and found that a night watchman, in his drunken stupor, had switched on the factory’s engine in the reverse mode. It had sucked in the stack of shoes stored nearby and out came sheep and goats from the wrong end. Alas, the company has gone into oblivion.
Had it survived the slings and arrows of time it would have perhaps set up a production unit and opened a 3-D showroom as well, in the metaverse for our avatars, without the sozzled night watchman. Many a thing, which existed only in human imagination, not so long ago, is today part of our day to day life. In the days to come, will AI or AGI be able to help the authorities in removing objectionable posts from the social media ab initio; thus as soon as a ghost started writing a post, the AI hand will move and move on to simultaneously delete the unparliamentary expressions, because it knows what is going on in the mind of the ghost writer. It may perhaps help resolve the unseemly controversy surrounding the lexicon of unparliamentary expressions