A.l. is again grabbing the news headlines these days – same as it was in my part of the world back in the 1950s. There is however a monumental difference in how the invention of a couple of generations ago and the breakthrough of today’s A.I. will affect the world’s inhabitants. ‘Artificial Intelligence’ undoubtedly will bring many benefits, but it is also to be feared and with repercussions for the Globe not yet fully understood.
The ‘real’ A.I; Artificial Insemination, was a different story altogether and was welcomed enormously in rural Ireland – unless you were a bull of course! There was an old Act on the statute books to control the breeding of livestock, but it really hadn’t been widely enforced until around the time we are talking about. ‘Scrub Bulls’ became outlawed and the only lover a cow was entitled to take up with was a ‘registered bull.’ This didn’t make the job easy for small farmers with their own unregistered bull. You need to remember that getting the cow in calf was the foremost priority and papers and pedigree were only an irritant!
There is a hilarious story told concerning the convolutions of above and the great parliamentarian, James Dillon – widely regarded as our Dail’s greatest ever orator and debater.
It was election time and Dillon was delivering a speech from the back of a lorry somewhere in the west of Ireland. The TD found himself being continuously heckled by a man near the front, who wasn’t in favour of having to offer his ‘grand little heifer’ to several licenced bulls around his area, because she wasn’t ‘holding’ to any of these uppity pedigree bulls’ – and the man was adamant he had a ‘lad of his own’ in the field that would do the job.
The unhappy heifer owner really laboured it, naming all the licenced bulls he tried who ‘weren’t worth a damn.’ After an hour he was still at it when James Dillon was trying to wind up the meeting. ‘What about my grand little heifer’, the man shouted. Dillon had a powerful booming voice – a necessary requisite for a politician in those days and he turned now and fixed his steely gaze on his tormentor. ‘Well, my good man, all I can say is that you made a right ‘hoor’ out of your grand little heifer!’
I was delighted when the A.I. station opened in our area. Instead of my brothers and I struggling to drive a randy cow along the road to Tormey’s or Gill’s bull; the cow was left tied in the byre and a man arrived and inseminated the cow. Mind you, the downside of this advance was that the man had to be paid – and maybe a lump of an uncastrated bullock out in Andy Cosgrove’s field more than willing to do the job for nothing!
The much talked about A.I. of today is no laughing matter and nobody knows where it might end. Artificial Intelligence is an extremely worrying phenomenon. I read or heard somewhere that even the man who invented it is scared of its potential to do harm to the world. It is too complicated for a fellow who left school at fifteen to figure out, but it seems to me that this A.I. can get out of control very easily.
Those in favour will insist that there will always be human overview, but many experts in the field of this sort of technology fear that A.I. can take over and override human instructions as soon as it no longer needs humans – and who will check it for disinformation. (Disinformation is the new nice name for lies.) At this point in time, I wonder how much control humans are willing to hand over to machines. We live in a quare world indeed …
Of course, same as with so many other modern inventions, A.I. has enormous capacity for good. It has already helped with advances in medical science, climate change, outer space and so on.
Journalism is a profession which will suffer greatly due to A.I. This machine can churn out articles and reports on any and every subject with just the touch of a button. According to the Lads, I will be the first to go. ‘All your editor has to do is ask the machine to write a s***e column of 800 words on the first thing that comes into its head … if it had a head; and the YCBS bit of space could be worth reading.’
As I’m no James Dillon, I don’t have a comeback for that one!
When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been murderers and tyrants, and for a time they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it, always. (Mohandas Gandhi)