A.I. Assistive Intuition

Child from the movie AI eating spinach

Photo © 2001 Warner Bros. Pictures/DreamWorks SKG. (source)

It feels like we're on the precipice of something with all this fancy new AI. But are we really? How much are things actually going to change?

The more I learn, the more I believe this current generation of AI will stay in "assist" mode for quite awhile. Which is really cool too. And will be transformative in its own way.

Like any hot new technology, a lot of the proselytizers are selling something, which makes it hard to separate fact from hype. In that sense it feels a bit like crypto/web3. But I do think there's something real here this time.

On the flip side, there's a lot of moral panic. People think AI is this great job destroyer. I think it's a bit overblown and as people use these tools more themselves, they'll calm down.

Well let me share my experience. Full disclosure: I'm writing this post in VS Code with Github Copilot turned on, and it's suggesting an end to every sentence I write.

The AI autocomplete suggestions are occasionally on point, especially when suggesting something "in my voice." But I'm finding myself writing against the machine's suggestions, going hard in the opposite direction, trying to think of something fresh. Just to make it mine. Is this making me better? Who knows?

When I'm coding, I listen more. The AI's often right (let's call it 50-75% of the time). But sometimes it's just barely wrong (e.g. suggesting object.var instead of object.variable), which introduces hard-to-squash bugs. In these instances, I'd almost rather it be way off, which it is most of the rest of the time.

Obviously this stuff will get better. But where are we now?

AI-generated picture from the prompt 'man in a tattered suit working on a laptop in the middle of a forest in the style of norman rockwell'

Source: midjourney. Prompt: "man in a tattered suit working on a laptop in the middle of a forest in the style of norman rockwell"

Most interesting work out there is work that's being done for the very first time anywhere, and at least for now, the AI is just synthesizing and delivering existing knowledge quickly. Churning out code or writing copy or even making boilerplate art or music is just not where the value (or the creative reward) is.

...although I gotta say, it is awfully fun to play with these models.

And the nondetermistic/black-box nature of the current tools make them feel more intuitive than rationally intelligent. Nothing wrong with that. We're vibing things. And then polishing the outputs.

It's like a baby learning to say Mom and Dad for the first time. They do their best with what they've heard before, blurt out "Maaa" and "Daaaa" and eagerly await positive reinforcement. You look at their big eyes and toothless smile and can't help but say awwwww.

I'm not even close to the first to liken AI to "artificial intution." And of course, what feels like intution is actually the product of linear algebra, probability and the tweaking of model weights and parameters by highly-trained, highly-intelligent data scientists/researchers. I guess intuition is just math too.

All that said, it sure feels great to have an intuitive partner throwing out a rough first draft so I'm never staring at a blank page for too long.

AI is a mighty powerful intuitive assist, but just that. The robots are not coming for our jobs yet any time soon.

Of course new works and businesses will exist that could not have existed before — think of semi-autonomous/self-driving cars or solo/indie devs using AI-generated art and music to to do more on their own or local/small businesses using high-quality text-to-speech to offer accessible experiences... I could go on. Some will be transformative, and some will be the AI equivalent of clapper lights, novel but useless.

I'm excited to see what people create with these new tools. And also for the inevitable countercultural backlash. As always, the medium is the massage. For a prescient look, check out the anime, Carole and Tuesday (2019), and one of its characters, AI-assisted musician Tao.

Mara the dog, as robot

> I will not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm

If I had to call it, we'll live in a world where we enjoy a healthy mix of both human and AI works. And we'll carry on living not so unlike we do today.

...until ... (a long time from now) ... the singularity comes... [bum bum bum!]