Terry from Derry: I Think Therefore AI

By Terry Boyle

When the news finally gets away from the rantings of a former president acting like a two-year-old proclaiming his innocence when we all know he’s guilty, we begin to see that there are more exciting things at work in our world. If we can ever get beyond the tribalism of Republicans and Democrats, we might open our eyes to a world that is making quantum leaps into a new kind of future, a future that is riddled with hope and danger.

So, while we’ve been preoccupied with the demonstrations of the madness of a criminal, the technological age we’ve become accustomed to is beginning to stretch the borders of our imagination. The automatic age that has radically changed our lives is on the brink of a new era, the era of artificial intelligence. 

For decades now, the exponential growth of technology has been unsettling to most of us. At first, we feared that robots making cars would lead to greater unemployment, or that computers would eradicate the need for humans, but so far, that has not happened. 

It seems inevitable that, whenever we develop some new advancement, it’s usually accompanied by an exacerbation of our fear of losing control, fear of self-destruction, or fear of being replaced.

The development of the nuclear bomb raised the stakes of complete annihilation, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Any new technological development begs the question if we have the maturity to handle the responsibility of such advancements.

Some suggest that we’re like kids with a box of matches. Others, Stephen Hawking among them, fear that we’re creating our destruction by developing artificial intelligence that could undo our very existence.   I think we’ve always lived with the fear of destroying ourselves.  We see it reflected in every movie that depicts AI as something to be wary of.   

From the dark moral of Frankenstein, to the frightening warning of Terminator, we’re seen to be constantly anxious about our need to create, combined with our collective suicidal mentality. Will we in the quest to cheat death create a monster that will ultimately destroy its maker? 

Will we create an artificial intelligence to protect this world that will deem us to be the biggest threat to this planet?  The tightrope towards the advancement of our species sees us balancing on the edge of the abyss. I don’t think we can ever stop ourselves from exploring new ideas, no matter how dangerous they are. We are curious by nature. 

The Garden of Eden
The metaphorical Garden of Eden demonstrates how far we are willing to risk our welfare. Though, it’s also possible to see that event as an example of Felix Culpa (happy fault) because the fall from grace leads to the future redemption of humankind.  So, while it’s good to have a healthy fear of knowledge, we cannot stop ourselves from being curious, and curiosity isn’t always a bad thing. It has led us to invent things we thought were only possible in science fiction. 

 We cannot imagine what it would be like to be without our smartphones. In the palm of our hand lies a computer that can do so much more than we thought possible. 

Robots can now perform surgical operations. Robotic advancements have made our lives easier in ways we never could’ve imagined had we not taken a step towards developing our technological knowledge. 
However, the next step into a new era comes at a greater risk. We are at the stage where we have developed computers, robots to do things that we cannot. And, even if we could do some of these things, we could never do them with the speed of computer. 

The development of AI is more advanced than I thought possible. It was a surprise to me that AI can now read human brain patterns on an MRI and interpret the thoughts of the person. The fact that AI can read our thoughts could seem alarming, after all, it’s not something we can do. 

However, this development also means someone who is in a coma can finally be heard and understood. The possibilities for helping those who are unable to communicate their thoughts are far-reaching. 

But can this knowledge be misused?  Yes, of course, it can. 

Could it be weaponized and used against us?  Again, yes, it could be, but this is how we’ve felt about every development we’ve ever embraced as progress.

 None of us knows where the development of AI will lead us. And, while we are still quite a long way from creating a sentient life from, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. 
Are we creating our destruction or finding a new way to survive the challenges confronting us? Time, as we’re often told, will tell. 

Time will tell if we’re on the cusp of a new era of remarkable achievements to better our lives, or if we’re risking expulsion from paradise for the bite of an apple.  I’m fascinated by what we’ve been able to do thus far.

The fact that we’ve managed to do so much in such a short time is quite amazing. The idea that we might be able to create a stronger more durable vessel to carry our consciousness is intriguing. To be free of infection and diseases, and lessen our dependence on food and water, seems impossible, but what we’ve done already seemed impossible.

I don’t want to go into this new era as a prophet of doom, nor do I want to be naïve about the possible harm we could do to ourselves and our world, but I do welcome the challenge this new future brings to us. Humanity, like any other species, wants to survive; to do that, it must progress and adapt to new situations. 

We are changing our world by polluting it, and if we are to continue, we will have to change to meet the new challenges ahead of us.

AI might be the very thing to help us to find solutions to the risks we face. For all the harm we’ve done, maybe we can counteract the damaging effects with a technology that makes our survival possible.

Terry’s New book, Angels and Empty Pages is now available, here:

Angels & Empty Pages
By Terry Boyle

Paperback – PoetryIn times of uncertainty we desperately crave something to bring comfort to our troubled hearts. Whether it’s a song, art, a piece of music or an inspiring poem, we seek to find a temporary place of refuge against the turmoil of the times. This collection of poetry is not a panacea for the ills of modern society. It’s not an escape, rather it aims to reflect with candidness the complex, sometimes contradictory, emotions of the human experience. Feelings of despair, hope, love, and anger can assail the mind at times and sometimes it’s almost impossible to put those feelings into words. It’s my hope that those who read the myriad of emotional shades and colours of my own personal experiences will find comfort in knowing that we’re not alone.

Originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, Terry Boyle now resides in Coachella Valley in California.  After leaving his hometown in 2004, Boyle took up a teaching position at Loyola University, Chicago where he taught Irish and British literature.  In 2011, his play, ‘Oh what a bloody good Friday!’ reached the semi-finals of the prestigious Eugene O’Neill competition. Since 2011, Boyle has had plays produced in Chicago, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.  In 2021, his poem, ‘A New Economy’, was selected to be included in the compilation of The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019-2021 (Eyewear Publishing).  His first collection of poetry, This Will Be, was published in 2022 by WIPF and Stock Publishers.  Boyle is also a regular columnist for the Irish American Newsin Chicago and iIrish in Ohio.

​* Terry is a retired professor now living in Southern California.  Originally from Derry, Northern Ireland, in 2004 he took up a position at Loyola University, Chicago, where he taught courses on Irish and British literature. Apart from teaching, Terry has had a number of plays produced and has recently been included in The Best New British and Irish Poets 2019 – 2021  (published by The Black Spring Press). He can be reached at: [email protected]

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