Let’s not panic

Every new technology has to be mastered to be useful in the long run to complement the human capabilities

April 09, 2023 03:22 am | Updated 07:41 pm IST

Humans have always learned and mastered new technologies, but the technologies themselves cannot outsmart humans.

Humans have always learned and mastered new technologies, but the technologies themselves cannot outsmart humans. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

There is a certain awe, a deep fear among the regular users of the Internet that artificial intelligence (AI), particularly in its ChatGPT mode unveiled recently, may take away human jobs significantly in the face of the already declining job-market. The underlying fears arise from two things that baffle humans — the speed of ChatGPT while responding to queries in just a few seconds; and the near-correct answers offered by it, mostly due to the built-in selectivity to pick up only relevant details as it runs through huge data available to it, before it composes the answer.

Speed comes inherently from the speed of the chips used, a data storage and processing technology that has been developing at a brisk pace ever since the first chips appeared in 1965 or so. Humans have always been stunned by new technologies which suddenly quickened the pace of numerical calculations, or speed in communication of data. For instance, the Slide Rule, or the Friden Machine Calculator, both of which were non-digital tools that caught up big in 1960s, did make an impact by providing much faster calculations, than ever before. Then came in 1980s the hand-held digital calculators, at least for the four basic arithmetic functions — addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Though several other functions like percentage and more complicated algebraic, logarithmic or trigonometric functions, like sine or cosine, were incorporated into the hand-held calculator soon after, universal acceptability of the simple palm-held calculator came among even uneducated shopkeepers relatively fast in 1980s or so, due to its utility.

Instant communication by fax or email received public acceptance in less than a decade after their introduction, again due to its huge utility in business communications. Smartphones came and made a huge impact on everyday human life, by offering audio and video calls, GPS and so on to the whole humankind, inexpensively. Use of lasers to scan coded info at supermarkets also got quick acceptability due to the speed that it offered. Still, humans could not be sidelined totally by such technologies. Even to this date, the cashiers at shopping malls need to phone up, though rarely, to seek help from their database on pricing, and so on when the laser scanner shows helplessness.

Selectivity while responding to a human user, in just a few seconds, after choosing just the relevant data, from the mounds lying stored on the Internet or the cloud, makes ChatGPT truly awe-inspiring, and renders the Google-search look like its poor cousin.

Every new technology has to be mastered to be useful in the long run to complement the human capabilities. Humans have always learned and mastered new technologies, but the technologies themselves cannot outsmart humans, in several specific aspects. For example, human emotions, including nuances of social and cultural parameters used conventionally by humans, cannot be exercised by chatbots or AI, or Machine Learning. Humans can look out of the window and make a reasonable prediction about the impending rain or a storm, vis-a-vis the most powerful computers deployed for weather forecasting, which often fail to make a reliable prediction for farmers or city-dwellers. Similarly, the translation from one language to another, made by computers or chatbots leaves much to be desired. Humans use exact words from dialects, which are meaningful to local nuances while conversing or translating, and even aid it with gesticulations, a marvellous expertise, that is not easy to be beaten by Bots, so soon.

Cheating by humans, like withholding the natural reaction of either appreciating the correct response of the chatbots, or declaring that the response of the chatbots was not correct, gives humans an edge over chatbots.

So, hang on. Humans have proven capacity to match and then master new technologies, historically. Let us not oppose the use of the chatbots, but rather employ them for socially and economically beneficial end-uses. After all, we could not stop the use of smartphones by schoolchildren. Could we? So, let us not panic at the advent of AI or ChatGPT, but wait to assimilate their usage in human endeavours.


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