Pandora didn’t intend to wreak havoc.
Curiosity got the better of Epimetheus’s wife. She simply wanted to peek at whatever was inside a mysterious container she’d been told not to open. According to Greek mythology, that tiny misstep let illness, death, and other evils escape, and they’ve plagued mankind ever since.
Artificial intelligence may be our Pandora’s box. Like humans, the rapidly evolving technology can be taught, and its massive databases store what it learns, using the knowledge in subsequent interactions. The systems become smarter and more capable with frightening speed, but so far they remain biddable machines, unable to think for themselves or act on their own. Some optimistic researchers believe those abilities could be reality in as few as ten years.
Generative AI, the buzzy current iteration, may seem brand new, but it’s been evolving since IBM launched Watson, an early chatbot that famously beat human competitors on Jeopardy! in 2011. Bard, Bing, and ChatGPT all told me “human teenager” is an apt analogy for the technology’s current intellectual stage. AI systems can reason. They can create original concepts. They can provide novel solutions for common problems. But they also “hallucinate,” make up information to fill gaps in their knowledge, and can be trained to believe fantasy is reality.
AI possesses unlimited potential to improve our personal and professional lives in ways we probably haven’t even conceived. In his artificial intelligence feature in mg Magazine’s August 2023 issue, Robert Mira reveals some of the ways highly trained systems already are impacting the cannabis industry. Taylor Engle presents nine AI tools that will make marketers’ jobs easier. And while the artist behind Manifesto Art said deciphering how to get the best results from systems like Midjourney could be frustrating, the majority of the illustrations in the issue demonstrate the utility of generative AI.
But unlike (most) humans, AI is without empathy or a moral compass, so it also possesses unlimited potential for corruption under the tutelage of humans who would do harm. Preventing intentional—or unintentional—misuse of the technology will require constant vigilance. Because an evil machine that can out-think and out-act humans could produce unthinkable outcomes.
We have opened Pandora’s box. Now we must wisely manage the consequences.