AI Now Is Like Computers in the 80s
This link is an interview with Steve Jobs in 1981 along with a news report on computers.
The news report highlights the growing dependence society has on computers. By 1981, personal computer use was growing fast and computers were used in most industries. This is despite the fact that computers were extremely primitive. There was no graphical UI, and memory, data transfer, input and output were extremely limited.
During the report and the interview, Steve Jobs makes his famous analogy that the computer (and other tools invented by humans) is like the bicycle, it amplifies human abilities. It is clear from the interview that he recognizes the unstoppable force that computers will become in the future. He has obviously prepared for the interview with the bicycle analogy and a few pertinent statistics in mind.
It is also interesting that they had a privacy advocate alongside Jobs. Even at that point computers had access to a huge amount of personal information. If the privacy advocate was concerned at that point, it’s hard to imagine his level of concern in this day and age when the government has access to almost all of our private information if necessary.
There are parallels between this interview and the way AI is viewed today. The way we talk about AI feels similar to the way computers are being talked about in this news report. AI is already used extensively in many areas, but it still feels as though it is at a primitive stage. It is hard to use and apply for anyone except experts.
There are emerging technologies, including Botpress, that democratize AI, however, these technologies are new and are only used by early adopters. There is still much work to do in making AI user friendly and a long way to go until it goes mainstream, but just like the personal computer, AI going mainstream will be an explosion.
Jobs talks about the personal computer democratizing computer usage. Jobs speaks as though he has seen the future (that we now live in). It is of course hard to overstate the impact the computer has had on society, it has been that big. Jobs says that its impact would be bigger than the petroleum industry, and while that is up for debate, he certainly recognized that the impact would be huge.
In a similar way, AI can revolutionize society. When people look back in 40 years at 2019, they will have similar reactions to our reactions to the news report. They will from one point of view see that we were further along than they imagined, but from another point of view see that our technology and way of interacting with software was so primitive compared to 2059.
By that time people will be conversing with software as they do with humans today and the software will be fulfilling the human’s wishes before they even occur to the human. At that point, it's likely that brain interfaces like Neuralink will be functional enough to be useful in everyday life, a technology that of course is only possible with AI.
It is interesting that similar concerns are raised now about AI and privacy as were raised then about computers and privacy. One take away from the 1981 news report is that the concerns of the privacy advocate about computers at that time, pale in comparison to the privacy issues that emerged after that. Surveillance is now a central theme in society, and is the central business driver of some of the biggest companies in the world, let alone the main intelligence tool of governments. This may give us pause to think that it is hard for us to imagine how much AI could make use of this surveillance and intrude into our lives. And that is not even considering the threat of generalized AI.
As discussed on the news report however, there are good and bad uses of any technology. People need to be aware of and make sure the bad uses are avoided.
Just like computers, AI as a tool can be a powerful force for good in the world. AI, and the devices and software it controls, are set to ingrain itself in every aspect of our lives. Just like it was hard to imagine in 1981 where computers would take us, it is hard to imagine the profound impact AI is set to have on our world.