Future imperfect: The tragedy of being denied an AI-enhanced civilization

Why we must temper AI before we lose it forever, depriving ourselves of all the wondrous innovation and beauty it can bring

Marc Hoag

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SOURCE: Marc Hoag via Midjourney 5.1. Yes, this is an AI-generated image that I created using Midjourney’s prompt-based image generation.

I have a fear: that governments of the world will decide to tightly regulate AI out of citizens’ hands just as surely as they regulate nuclear weapons; certain online behavior; and much more besides. Italy took the first preemptive step in this direction already. China too, of course. I don’t think it requires much of a leap to imagine a near future where the US rips AI from our grasping hands; frankly, I’d be pleasantly surprised if this didn’t happen.

The thought that we could be denied this incredible new power is a wretchedly terrifying one, and dare I say, a profoundly, deeply emotional one.

AI — this current blend of public-facing LLMs — is not only the most powerful tool humanity has ever seen, but also, the most beautiful. It is a catalyst for innovation and creativity, equally as potent for science as it is for art. AI provides the blind with recipes conjured up from a photo of their refrigerator’s contents. It gives a 50 year-old truck driver both the confidence and capacity to shift gears from trucking to coding, a heretofore insurmountable, unimaginable career pivot. It helps freshly minted lawyers open their first law practice; a stay-at-home parent to launch an Etsy store full of otherworldly AI art.

AI enables us to do anything we desire. If computers are our tools, and the Internet is the medium we work in, then AI is a USB stick in our brains, a perpetual drip feed of boundless knowledge for us to tap at will. Where once our analysis paralysis was the result of uncertainty, now it will be because of excess capability. No longer will our decision tree through life linger as between good and bad choices, or hard or easy paths; now the choice will simply be one of pure desire:

What do I feel like doing today?

Human limitation will be less a binary comparison of what we can and can’t do, and more about what we desire to do. And by enabling us to take the path more desired rather than simply the path we already know, AI will unleash a creativity and innovation…

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