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  • Robert Farago

AI Isn't the Atom Bomb - It's More Important Than That

Or How I Learned to Love AI

I’m not a fan of the movie Oppenheimer. The narrative is disjointed and the charmless central character makes Ron DeSantis seem affable. But there’s no doubt the movie has struck a chord with social commentators. Specifically, AI is the next A-Bomb!

Jackson Ryan from

The Oppenheimer analogy is hauntingly apt here. When scientists learned how to split the atom, it was immediately apparent to them that the reaction could help build a devastating atomic bomb. The first test of such a weapon, Trinity, was conducted in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945.
The bomb detonated; it worked. Not even a month later, two atomic bombs had been dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I don't wish to diminish the horrors of the A-bomb or equate the power of generative AI with those tragedies. I only want to highlight how quickly we can move from theory to practice, with little understanding of the long-term consequences. It's alarming.

Anyone who’s watchedTerminator will agree: AI is alarming. But let’s take a second to recognize a simple fact: the threat of mutual assured destruction bequeathed to us by Dr. Oppenheimer has given us world peace that’s lasted 77 years, 10 months, and 26 days. Long may it hold.

Meanwhile, the threat of global warming has replaced ye olde “duck and cover” fear of nuclear annihilation at the top of the existential threat hit parade. Only temporarily supplanted by the COVID pandemic. Before AI arrived to vie for the Triple-T WKUA title (The Thing That Will Kill Us All).

Pre-apocalyptic hand-wringing is as as old as humanity. The belief in Armageddon, for example, has been around for centuries, held by many cultures and multiple religions. Mankind is in a state of sin! God will intervene, bringing about judgment and mass destruction.

I reckon this concept – humans are bad and there’s going to be a reckoning – underpins our collective psychology. (If there are two things a Jew knows it’s guilt and Chinese food.) Perhaps it came from our ancestors’ inability to comprehend mother nature’s destructive power, kicking our ass time and time again.

Or maybe it was just a good way for humanity to organize itself. Aztec leaders taught their people that the world had been created and destroyed four times before the present era, due for another reboot (thank you Hernán Cortés). Look at all the Aztecs accomplished.

Once humanity applied science to volcanos, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, drought, floods, climate change and asteroid impacts, we were ripe for a philosophical shift. From God whacking us because we’re bad, to us whacking us because we’re bad. Nuclear weapons filled a psychological void.

When ChatGPT launched, creators and commentators alike decried Artificial Intelligence as digital Frankenstein – the murderous monster mooted by Mary Shelley in 1818. They promulgated the obverse of Descartes’ declaration: AI thinks therefore I’m not.

After consulting my favorite polymath, Jon Wayne Taylor, I don’t see it as AI vs. Humans. JT predicts that humans will be AI. We’ll insert the technology into our biology. As the Brits are wont to say, he’s not wrong. Check out this four-year-old YouTube video.

Researchers have created tiny functional, remote-powered, walking robots, developing a multistep nano-fabrication technique that turns a 4-inch specialized silicon wafer into a million microscopic robots in just weeks.
Each one of a robot's four legs is just under 100-atoms-thick, but powered by laser light hitting the robots' solar panels, they propel the tiny robots. The researchers are now working on smart versions of the robots that could potentially make incredible journeys in the human body.

We’re not talking about a miniaturized Rachel Welsh taking a trippy trip through a dying diplomat. These “thinking” nano-bots will eventually search for and kill cancerous tumors all on their own. Oh wait. Done! But wait! There’s more!

Elon Musk's Neuralink won FDA approval for human study of brain implants back in May. Doctors using AI for diagnosis are outperforming doctors who don’t. AI tutors are bringing one-on-one education to kids cursed with shitty schools.

Don’t get me wrong. Even a quick glance at my posts on Artificial Intelligence will tell you I’m hardly an AI Pollyanna (e.g., AI is Coming for Your Kids). I see AI as Big Brother’s bestest best friend, the most terrifying tool for tyranny that humans have ever created. Since the last tool. Which was…

Radio! Nazis mobilized and motivated the masses to commit mass murder through the “miracle” of radio. And here we are, XM satellite radio on our phones, not slaughtering Jews. What does that tell you?

It tells me AI is not an Atom bomb. While I appreciate what the atom bomb and its progeny have done for us so far – yes really – it’s nothing compared to what AI will do for us going forward. For good or evil? Like everything else we’ve developed as a species, both.

Anyway, the genie’s out of the bottle, and it ain’t going back. Its current and future implementation brings to mind the old Robert F. Kennedy curse (not the familial one): may you live in interesting times. Now pardon me while I jump in my refrigerator.

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