The hosts of AI for Humans on AI’s potential for good, bad, and downright silly
When the internet first became mainstream, the word on everyone’s lips was that it was the future of everything. To be successful, the feeling was, brands and businesses absolutely had to have a website to promote or something internet-related to talk about or they’d slip into irrelevancy. The hype was everywhere, and it was deafening.
“What’s funny is, they were all right, but they weren’t right on the timeline,” Gavin Purcell, co-host of the AI for Humans podcast, told BOSS.
History seems to be repeating itself with the explosion of AI. Seemingly everyone is rushing to jump on the AI bandwagon, whether they really know what to do with it yet or not. Purcell, an Emmy winner who has served as showrunner for “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and has an extensive new media background, and co-host Kevin Pereira, a multimedia creative and former mainstay on G4 TV, are tech enthusiasts and lovers.
That doesn’t mean, though, that they’re above pointing out some of the silliness that comes along with any new wave of tech. There is a lot of hype around AI, to be sure. Pereira joked that at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, “If you had a product in 2023, you just brought it back out again in 2024, but you made sure AI was on the box.”
We might not really need AI-enabled lawn mowers or washing machines, for example, but what’s with AI coming really is “as big as the internet, if not bigger,” Purcell said.
Useful Right Away
What differentiates AI is that even in its infancy, there are already many helpful use cases.
“This stuff is useful today. You’re not in search of a use case for it.” Pereira said. “If you are a coder, you will write code faster. Maybe not cleaner, but you will certainly write code faster if you’re coding with an AI assistant.”
As Pereira mentioned, humans still have to check AI’s work to make sure it’s producing what prompters are asking for and doing it accurately. But AI can undoubtedly do things faster than we can alone. That helps artists come up with concepts and refine their work. It helps writers come up with ideas and get started faster. Musicians can train AI on their styles, then use it to write music faster. It’s an idea person’s tool, connecting dots that turn ideas into reality.
It can produce at a much higher volume than we can. Google’s GNoME deep learning tool discovered 2.2 million new crystal possibilities, of which 380,000 are considered the most stable and suitable candidates for experimental synthesis that could prove capable of powering future technologies. In the medical field, AI is making breakthroughs in diagnostics and drug discovery.
“Democratization of intelligence is very important,” Pereira said. “I pay an absurd amount for healthcare, and I oftentimes don’t have access to a doctor to give me practical guidance, but I can upload my blood results into GPT now and ask it to find me issues or look for interactions with drugs.
“I’m hard-pressed to find something that isn’t going to be affected by (AI) in the long run.”
If you’re looking for AI to solve all your problems or give you step-by-step instructions on improving your business, you’ll come away frustrated, but Purcell says it can be a great sounding board for entrepreneurs.
“I think a lot of businesspeople would be well-served to go into it, explain what their business is, talk about some of the problems they have, and then start bouncing ideas off of it,” he said. “I have found more people have gotten better use out of ChatGPT doing this than almost anything else.”
You can also speak to AI in real human syntax in a way that would confuse smart speakers of a decade ago, he said. Those are some of the things AI is best at so far. What it’s about to get a lot better at is multimodal input, taking video, audio, and text in as a prompt and producing something very close to what the prompter envisioned.
Purcell foresees video generation improving at a rapid pace this year, which could have a massive impact on media.
“You can get really good 4-second snippets of video” now, he said. “I think we’re going to start expanding that out so that you’ll have, instead of 4 seconds soon, we’ll be able to get 10 seconds, then 30 seconds.
“And this is not going to happen fully in 2024, but when we get to the point where you can make a minute to minute-long, minute-and-a-half-long video from a prompt, that changes the entire experience of advertising, it changes the entire experience of movie making of television making of all this stuff that we consume.”
Force for Good
Given how quickly generative AI has come into popularity, there are still a lot of uncertainties. Lawsuits making their way through the courts will set precedent for legal standards when it comes to copyright disputes. Creatives on all sides will have to fight for credit and compensation when it comes to intellectual property.
Job displacement is a real concern, with the International Monetary Fund declaring that AI could disrupt 40% of the world’s jobs.
“That will change the pathway forward for a lot of people,” Purcell said, and we need to be careful to leave room for human originality and creativity even as we outsource rote work to AI.
Pereira warned that AI has the power to distort reality for ill when in the wrong hands.
“A lot of folks who are on the sidelines don’t realize how much misinformation, disinformation and manipulation there is already,” he said. “When you put the power of AI into some nefarious hands, you could have bespoke manipulation as someone’s social feeds are targeted audience to make them feel a certain way or vote a certain way.”
Media literacy and recognizing what’s real and what isn’t will be an important skill to develop. Purcell and Pereira remain techno-optimists and agree that the potential of AI for good will outweigh the bad in the long run. Purcell pointed to possible medical breakthroughs that could see us cure diseases that have long plagued humanity, and scientific breakthroughs such as new physics or new math that could be transformative for humankind. Until the point of artificial superintelligence – which might not even be possible – where AI continually learns from itself and surpasses human knowledge in every domain, AI is a good thing.
“Let’s take a look at the internet,” Pereira said in concurrence. “It certainly has its issues. It certainly over time has been more manipulated, and there’s darker corners of it, but I think most people would say that access to information and connectivity, the ability to have your voice heard, for commerce, it rounds up to a net good. I think we’ll see that for AI as well.”
The genie is not going back in the bottle.
“This is the next generation of technology, and I think this is really going to disrupt a lot of our lives,” Pereira said.
Once you’ve seen a washing machine’s AI algorithm calculate the exact right amount of suds based on how dirty your clothes are, why would you want to go back to the old days?