I remember when GPS for cars became popular, and you heard stories of people driving over a cliff, or into a river following the GPS blindly. I laughed at some of the stories, and when you hear the responses that they were following what the GPS said. Immediately I wondered if these people had common sense, any my parents telling me “If the GPS said jump of a bridge would you?” I guess some people do?
But, what if it is not their fault? What is they were trained to believe the GPS is smarter than him, and thus should trust it more than their own brain. I may divert from the GPS example here, but I want it to be a bit more relevant to the technology we are facing today.
In the early days of the internet, it was a plethora of information out there, and really no good way to find anything. Along came search engines, they were ok, and users could find information. Skip a few years, and someone decided on catalog and organizing the information was a better way for people to search. Yahoo, amllowed you to traverse the internet (well a limited set of the internet human curated) with ease. Then came google. Google came up with an algorithm that just worked better, and did it without human intervention, thus making Yahoo not a scalable business model.
Google continued to evolve, as they realized they could help people ‘answer questions’ vs just search. This started in 2012 when they added calculator to their results and continued in 2014 when google added the answer box. Now, answers were instantly on the first page, and the users could get answers faster. I liken this to when you were a kid and you thought your parents knew everything, and in many cases they had the answer. I don’t really think anyone growing up once they asked their dad a question, they spent the time looking up if they were correct in the Encyclopedia Britannica. In some cases, we asked a teacher other person we held in authority.
So a quick recap, even before the internet people liked asking a question and getting an answer without having to do further work. Now there is the phenomenon that kids start being curious once they start school, but I am not talking about that. At all ages we look at authority and believe they are telling the truth, we trust ‘authority.’ So now we have a search engine that started in 1998 that quickly grew to being the ‘authoritative source’ of information on the internet, and now answers questions. From 2014 on we trust typing in a question to something faceless and believe the answer.
Along comes ChatGPT and other AI tools, which now don’t give alternatives or a list of sites to answer the question but a great sounding answer. Amazingly we type an answer and assume it is ‘correct.’ Like asking our parents when we were 4, ChatGPT answers in a way that sounds correct and is written well enough it appears to be written by another human. But, AI well has nothing to do with “intelligence” right now. They are just trained on lots of data, have a filter so they may or may not go awry (though people have figured out how to get it too) and the ability to respond in an impressive sounding answer.
So, our brain takes the shortcut and ass, then gets a response, and as we did when we were 4, when we were in school, following a GPS off a cliff, googling a question we take the shortcut and assume it is the truth. As humans, maybe we need to learn to challenge answers, use common sense and find trusted sources for the question we are asking. It unfortunately is a lot of work, it means not looking always at the first answer, not looking at only the sources you always go to, and digging and learning more than you might want to. Being a human is actually hard work, and why do our brains take the shortcut, and I do know I have the privilege of being able to think and challenge what I know (due to my upbringing etc. we have discussed this in the past.) I even asked ChatGPT why humans trust them…
Now there are other things that are happening (and will happen) that I won’t get into here but might soon. Sources can be biased by what data they leverage, the algorithm they put in, their desire to have an agenda etc. What is true today, may change tomorrow (answers are different) the words people use can affect your opinion (we discussed this one already.). So yes, being a human is tough, so I expect someone will watch while their AI self-driving car drives off a cliff and will say “The GPS and the AI of the car knows what it is doing…” Hopefully after reading this, you don’t always take the short cut.
This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free. I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them
This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.
Above the normal disclaimer, this does not mean all search engine are bad, or all AI returns bad results, just think about it. And questions it.