A Frightening Future: Is Artificial Intelligence Our New Reality?

During the World Economic Forum which took place in Davos, Switzerland, from the 16th to the 20th of January, one of the major topics the ‘elite leaders’ focused on was ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot capable of producing texts eerily similar to actual human writing. The tool has been gaining much visibility since last year, and actually reached one million users in just five days.

Newsroom(02/07/2023 18:00, Gaudium Press) We may think that Artificial Intelligence is just a distant fiction, out there in the future, or that it will never become more than a fantastical movie plot. Not so. This reality is already part of our lives, and in such subtle ways that we are not even aware of it, and is increasing at an oppressive speed.

In practically every futuristic book or film, on the one hand, we see an extreme advance of vehicles, machines, robots and computers, but on the other hand, these tremendous advances always take place in a scenario of destruction, like a post-war scenario.

Even if the realities presented point to the “perfect society” of a brave new world, they will always create enslaved human beings, in a pathetic uniformity and a life devoid of meaning. Flying cars, holograms, multifunctional robots, interstellar trips, space colonies and chaos all around, as well as destroyed nature and empty men and women, almost always oppressed and fleeing from dangers that they themselves have created.

How close are we to this reality? How many people are aware and wary? Not many, I would say. Very few. And each one of us is responsible for that. We are adherents of the law of the least effort required, and we are extremely satisfied with things made to make our lives easier and which give us more free time to do nothing.

Chatbot and Artificial Intelligence

Chatbot: the term may sound strange to some, but practically all people have related to one chatbot, or even several.

A chatbot is nothing more than just that, and almost all retail companies use this customer service tool, which sometimes also serves for purchasing products and paying bills. It is software with pre-programmed guidelines that provides answers to customers’ basic questions until the need for human service is verified – when it does not abruptly terminate the conversation when the questions asked are not on its schedule.

They are everywhere and can be divided into two types: those based on rules and those that use Artificial Intelligence – a resource that exponentially increases the ability to interact with human beings, being able to hold dialogues with well-developed answers to different types and levels of questions.

The rule-based chatbots, also known as “simple chatbots”, have previously programmed keywords, and respond from the assimilation of the terms people use the most, without deviating from a pre-established standard.

On the other hand, chatbots with Artificial Intelligence (advanced chatbots) work in a more complex way. They accumulate the terms used by users to learn them and process them later, expanding their “knowledge” and giving more refined answers, often leading people to believe that they are interacting with another human being.

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What is the difference between a chatbot and ChatGPT?

In recent days, several news stories about ChatGPT have taken up space in the media. As it is an acronym, many may not be interested in knowing more about it, but it is something quite serious and even “threatening”, especially for the area in which I work: writing.

While a standard chatbot – some even with nice names given by the owner companies, in an attempt to humanize the service made by robots – has a limited performance and is prepared to answer only one class of questions, the ChatGPT, powered by Artificial Intelligence, has the capacity for dialogue and argumentation, being able to answer, in different ways, exactly about what is asked or suggested, unlike the chatbot that only uses standard defined answers.

One of the main functions of ChatGPT is to write texts autonomously and expand one’s own learning about writing. Some e-books on specific topics have been written with the use of this tool, which can create more technical parts of the text or do the entire redaction, since Artificial Intelligence is extremely powerful and detailed in gathering technical information on the most varied subjects.

Banned in France

In addition to writing texts, ChatGPT is also able to solve mathematical problems, the real “salvation” for many students. But, as it seems, this celebration will not advance so much. In France, for example, Sciences Po university has banned its use and students who transgress the rule could be expelled.

The university explained that the reasons for only allowing ChatGPT to be permitted for pedagogical use supervised by a teacher are, in addition to hindering student development, that the tool could produce works of plagiarism and fraud, since it gathers knowledge disseminated on the network.

Last month, the New York City Department of Education also banned the tool across all devices and school networks in the region, citing concerns about negative impacts on student learning and content security and accuracy.

As the system is in its initial phase, the access is very easy and free, which creates a big problem for teachers, since many students will be able to use the tool to answer questions and do school work without using their own knowledge and intelligence, using only the “cleverness” of using a sophisticated virtual assistant.

How ChatGPT works

The creators of ChatGPT celebrated reaching one million users in just five days. The versatility of the service and the quality of the results is revolutionizing the Internet, which has garnered a billion-dollar investment from the Internet giant, Microsoft.

However, the wide range of possibilities – including misuse – offered by this new tool is also seen as a risk, along with the potential for replacement of human beings in various sectors of the labour market that this new innovation will invariably cause.

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Generative Artificial Intelligence, the technology used in ChatGPT, can “invent” almost any imaginable content on a suggested topic and write it into a text box. The model is fed with text examples and learns to make predictions of the next word within an initial set of words.

Another technique used in ChatGPT is called “transformer”. This is a machine learning algorithm, used for natural language processing. This algorithm allows the model to “pay attention” at the same time to different parts of the text written by a person, instead of reading word by word, as we do, so its ability to create texts may very soon surpass the ability of humans in this category, since the machine can learn even the concepts of subjectivity, the very fruits of our thoughts.

Other AI functionalities

Artificial Intelligence robots are also painting pictures and producing artworks considered very good by experts, composing music and, of course, guiding us to all the places we drive to with our cars, via GPS. It is quite true that these apps sometimes take us down tortuous paths, but their developers are working to improve them more and more.

Artificial Intelligence is also used to monitor our behavioural and shopping habits. Just by watching one type of media two or three times, you may find yourself being bombarded with similar online content. Or, just by telling someone that you are looking to buy a pair of trainers or a washing machine, you might be shocked to discover that your mobile phone, sitting idly by, is now showing you ads and advertisements about the types of products you recently spoke of in a casual conversation. Is your phone listening to your conversations?

Another use of Artificial Intelligence is the apparent creation and dissemination of Fake News, which might influence us to have particular political preferences, choices, to make certain decisions, to invest money, buy products, or to disagree with others about these issues. Artificial Intelligence can also be used successfully in the programming of military actions and tactics, meaning, it can perfectly conduct a war.

And while we are delighted with these new features and facilities, having fun and killing precious time with our virtual toys, the United States and the European Commission signed, on 27 January, an agreement to accelerate and enhance the use of Artificial Intelligence to bring more speed and efficiency to services and operations in sectors such as health, agriculture, the power grid, weather forecasting and emergency response. And other countries will be invited to join this new pact.

A new Noah’s Ark

Unless there is interference from Heaven, we seem to be on a road of no return, which will take us to the future of science fiction films. With populations of several countries devastated by the effects of war and hunger, and by the increasing use of drugs – which creates a huge contingent of people with no prospects, and mostly young people who leave home and go to live on the streets in precarious and unhealthy situations – we are already in the beginning stages of the scenario of futuristic fiction stories.

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Physical currency is likely to be extinct soon, which means that without the use of technology we will not be able to buy, sell and even receive our salaries, which have already become virtual. Robots take over automakers, and self-driving cars are already being designed, so that drivers will become passengers. Surgeries are being performed using Artificial Intelligence, many of them with the doctor participating from a distance, sometimes in another country or even continent from where the patient is.

We are entering this new reality and we will have no way of escaping it, especially the new generations, who already choose Artificial Intelligence over human care. The children who are coming, in a short time, will only know this way of life. Love relationships with robots are already a reality in some parts of the world and it is assumed that, in a not too distant future, babies will be generated in laboratories, in artificial wombs, without the participation of human mothers. And pets – as I have already written about – today occupy a prominent role in our lives, and may also be replaced, because already, intelligent, efficient, “loving” robot cats and dogs that do not need to be fed, do not bark, do not meow, do not shed hair and do not make dirt in inappropriate places, are being produced.

Can we rebel against this? Refuse to use it? Protest? The answer to these three questions and many others along the same lines is “probably not”. What we can do is take good care of the only thing we have that robots and Artificial Intelligence will never have: our souls. I believe that, before this reality – feared by some and desired by others – is completely installed, we will have the great and expected return of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

And those who want to survive the development of the hybrid man – half human and half robot – and the subsequent and gradual replacement of the human species by machines, can take shelter in “Noah’s Ark”, left by Jesus before His Ascension: the Church. And even if it ceases to be the immense ship designed by the patriarchs, at least one safe boat, which can shelter the souls that choose holiness, will always be at their disposal. The captain of this ship is named Mary, and She can save those who entrust themselves to Her from the enormous destruction that is coming, and will come, much faster than we can imagine. Those who persist and survive will see this salvation.

By Afonso Pessoa

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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