Welcome to the AI dystopia no one asked for, courtesy of Silicon Valley | CNN Business (2024)

Welcome to the AI dystopia no one asked for, courtesy of Silicon Valley | CNN Business (1)

Apple issued a rare apology for its ad that depicted a massive hydraulic press smashing the tools of human creativity, like paint, books and music.

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A couple of weeks ago, I rewatched Jurassic Park for probably the 10th time since the movie came out 30 years ago. (As an aside, it really holds up — 10/10, no notes.)

Early in the plot, when the guests are discussing their impressions of the park, Jeff Goldblum’s character (also 10/10, just perfect) launches into a speech so prescient you could sub out all the dinosaur stuff and map it onto the modern debate around artificial intelligence.

“Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun … You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it.”

And then comes the line that later launched a thousand memes: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Naturally, the skeptic of the group is dismissed as a Luddite and the movie carries on. (Spoiler alert: The Luddite was right!)

AI skeptics — who are legion, and not necessarily part of the fringe tin foil hat crowd — are begging Silicon Valley to take a beat before unleashing AI to the world.

But tech companies, faced with the most powerful computing innovation in a generation, are running around like kids who just found their dad’s gun.

See here: Apple and Google — which, to be sure, deserve a lot of credit for the innovations they’ve brought to the world — have recently latched on to AI-powered features to help sell their newest tablets and smartphones. After all, throwing AI into your pitch deck is a surefire way to signal to shareholders that you’re on the cutting edge, which helps distract from the fact that your company hasn’t actually produced any significant proprietary tech in years.

In marketing those new devices, though, Apple and Google have lost the plot.

Apple’s new iPad advertisem*nt made headlines for all the wrong reasons this week. The spot depicts a massive industrial hydraulic press slowly crushinga collection of objects that represent the human creative experience: There’s a piano, a record player blasting Sonny & Cher’s 1972 hit “All I Ever Need Is You,” cans of paint, books, a Space Invaders arcade console, a trumpet. The music bounces along as the machine switches on and smashes it all down. Then, the big reveal: It’s all contained in Apple’s new iPad, its thinnest and most powerful ever, thanks to its brand new AI chip.

The outrage online came fast and furious.

“It is the most honest metaphor for what tech companies do to … artists, musicians, creators, writers, filmmakers: squeeze them, use them, not pay well, take everything then say it’s all created by them,” filmmaker Asif Kapadia wrote on X.

“If you thought THIS IPad ad was weird, you should have seen the first cut where they lined up all your favorite characters and shot them,” quipped actor and producer Luke Barnett.

Apple issued a rare apology for the ad on Thursday, telling AdAge that “our goal is to always celebrate the myriad of ways users express themselves and bring their ideas to life through iPad. We missed the mark with this video, and we’re sorry.”

Earlier in the week, CEO Tim Cook said Apple’s “outrageously powerful” M4 chip will power the company’s new AI tools. In other words: Check it out, Wall Street! Peoplearen’t buying our stuff as muchany more but just wait until we add bots!

Meanwhile, is anyone else getting inundated with Google’s Pixel ads, which show people giddily using the smartphone’s AI photo-editing software to deceive their online followers?

In those ads, a guy who can’t dunk a basketball on his own uses a trampoline to get to the rim, and then edits out the trampoline. An imperfect group selfie gets everyone’s best angle and creates a composite image of a moment that never happened. A dad tosses his kid up playfully in the air, and then edits the image to seem, for reasons I still don’t understand, as if the kid went several inches higher into the air.

This is Google going, “look what we can do!” without any reflection on how pointless it all is. It is, at best, distortion for distortion’s sake. At worst, it’s distortion for the sake of conditioning regular people to be cool with the idea of visual misinformation.

Smartphones and tablets were invented to enhance our lived experience, to make it easier to leave the house and go to the beach and meet up with friends — just a good camera-computer combo that fits in your pocket.

Theoretically, our phones and tablets will become even more useful with AI, serving as virtual assistants that can do all the boring stuff we don’t want to, like summarizing all your new emails and filtering out junk. There’s a world in the not too distant future, according to AI proponents, where you can simply tell Siri or Google “order my usual breakfast from the coffee shop near the office, I’ll be there in 10 minutes to pick it up,” and the bot will do just that.

We’re not there yet, however. And so far, the consumer applications for AI are simultaneously underwhelming and dystopian.

Distorted images may be harmless social media fodder, until they become propaganda spread by bad actors.

Apple is expected to announce its own ChatGPT-like tools that could be a game changer for your internet searches. But generative AI bots are also prone to give wrong answers and experience hallucinations, and no one seems to know what happens when the bots run out of human-generated data to learn from and start hoovering up their own artificial texts like a snake eating its own tail.

The Jeff Goldblums of the AI debate — who include some of the industry’s own pioneers — are not necessarily saying we have to smother AI and pretend it never existed. Most of them are just your friendly neighborhood skeptic, walking around going, “hey, should we really do that?”

Clearly, we weren’t invited to Apple’s or Google’s marketing meetings.

Welcome to the AI dystopia no one asked for, courtesy of Silicon Valley | CNN Business (2024)


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