I love a good online course and as part of the latest one, I went to an online talk the other night given by a self-styled sacred activist shaman and was really looking forward to it.
She was very emphatic that the end of the world is nigh, climate change, blah blah blah and told us to read The Dawn of Time, and I believed her until she shifted into a long diatribe of how artificial general intelligence (AGI) is about to take over the world, it is only a matter of time until ChatGPT evolves into something which builds robots and exterminates humanity.
At which point she lost all credibility in my eyes as ChatGPT is not AGI. I couldn’t much listen to anything else, but apparently her answer to all this was to bang your gong and feel in your bones that humanity can turn it around at the last minute, as the men told her they would. Turns out she is a lady novelist who read a book about climate change, and then went on a podcast with young men who told her all these things, and that really if we want to know about AI we should listen to that podcast.
Then, she invited comments in the chat so I said: I said that I have worked in AI since 1992 and I totally disagree, which was mainly for the benefit of the other ~ 90 women on the call who don’t have my background and trusted this woman, who at that precise moment was using her platform to spread fear and ignorance because she didn’t know anything about it.
Shut up, Ruth
The woman who organised this seminar as part of a year long course for us women: to speak up and stand in our truth and be the changemakers society needs, at this point chimed in and said that: AI was off topic and if I (Ruth) had anything else to say that I should take it to the online community – she calls it that but really it is a message board, as she shows up there intermittently. It’s there basically for us women to write down what we know and she can mine it for her next book. And, what a repository it is, thoughts from over ~600 women between 40-90 years old which we have paid to create – very smart of organiser woman. When we signed up for her course last September, she made us sign a terms and conditions that states it all belongs to her to use as she desires in perpetuity. Cue evil laughter and organ music.
So the lady novelist banged her gong (I am not sure if she actually did as my zoom froze for a while at that point) and led us through a meditation and then invited us to share our thoughts. I put my hand up and said: I’m Ruth and I am the one who said about AI. Lady novelist shut me down saying that organiser woman said you can’t talk about AI. So I started again, with a bit of fluff for her ego (she had been talking about ‘social technologies’ so I said we could code them up), so she would let me speak and then I said: Artificial general intelligence is…. And she shut me down again telling me to listen to some podcasts inferring then I might know enough then: you can’t talk about AI. I then said that I believe we need to get more women in tech.
What I really meant – but I was flustered at this point – was that women need to know about computing so that they don’t believe everything they hear (and subtext: talk a load of bollocks and show us all up like she just had). She butted right in to tell me that she had spoken to a woman in IT who runs her own company and knows all about that and that the only women who will ever get into IT are those who set up their own company to put the world right – it sounded rather like the idiotic Brexit plan – and she was on a roll guiding me to success with unsolicited, ignorant advice. I didn’t bother saying that I used to run my own company, but stopped when my life changed, I just said: I already work in IT, and would have said more but organiser woman, then DMed privately in the chat at that moment – to clarify, Ruth, AI is off-topic…
Basically: Shut up, Ruth, me and me mate don’t give a shit about your knowledge and experience, it’s our time to shine, lady novelist has listened to two podcasts so she is the AI expert not you – you are off topic. So, I pushed my mute button, and I sat there stunned as lady novelist talked about big egos and judged the next lady as not having one… I can tell you don’t, she said, pompously.
From the very first seminar I attended back in October, it was clear that organiser woman is very much a my road or the high road person and shuts people down every call, brusquely, claiming time constraints, but will then in the next breath share, at length, anecdotes from her life because she knows more than anyone else. If someone asks a question about something she hasn’t explained properly or challenges her authority she tells them it’s off topic and to buy her others courses to educate themselves and then come back.
The feminine divine
My only experiences prior to this in lady women empowerment circles was the Fairytale Medicine which was run by a highly skilled amazingly empathetic facilitator, who says it took years to become this way. I have the deepest respect and admiration, great gratitude and loyalty for her. A year with her was deeply healing, as were the several courses I did with the amazing yogi and feminine divine guru Sally Kempton who sadly died this week. I know what powerful feminine divine energy is, which is nothing to do with gender, I’ve sat in circle with it thanks to both these women.
The course I am on this year is not that.
After the call ended, I went to the forum and wrote a post saying: general artificial intelligence is not coming anytime soon ( I often get general in the wrong place as it’s not a precise definition made up 1997 and changes depending on who uses it ) as I have written here on numerous occasions in blogs such as: Westworld and the ghosts of AI and Chit Chat, Chitty Chitty Chit Chat, ChatGPT amongst many others. I like to think the things I coded, the computers I’ve build, the degrees I have, the research and consultancy I have done both academically and privately, count for something.
Some of the women on the forum thanked me openly and privately for my input, as they weren’t sure what to think, AI is a hot topic and it is important to know fact from fiction, and also no one wants to be seen as going against our organiser, who knows who she will sneer at next? We also had a little share about how she isn’t great at holding space for others, and doesn’t seem to appreciate the time and wisdom the women who show up have because they are lovely like that, polite and respectful, but also reassuring: This isn’t healthy. That said, I assume like me, they appreciate that this forum exists at all and so put up with it. We learn from each other as that is the point of any gathering.
These people are experts, Ruth, you are not
Then, cue evil laughter and organ music, organiser woman, replied to my post, by cutting and pasting an article from CNN with the headline: Experts are warning AI could lead to human extinction, which is not where I go for accurate AI discussion, (I read the original documentation and I take a look at the code) referring me to:
The letter signed by hundreds of AI experts and industry leaders….
The letter she is talking about is one paragraph on a webpage at safe.io which was written to provoke a discussion and to get some attention it doesn’t say anything and I don’t think she had even bothered to click through to read the page. As she then said:
…So are you disagreeing with them all ?
I disagree regularly with Bill Gates and Daniel Dennett as a matter of course. But as a matter of professional reputation, I had no choice but to write back and point out her patronising tone: They are experts, Ruth, who are you?
She also said:
I guess when the founder of Chat GPT issues warnings of impending Armageddon, people are going to be worried anyway.
So only for the benefit of everyone else and not her since she was now an expert having read the CNN page, I explained that OpenAI which owns ChatGPT was set up by entrepreneur Sam Altman, who set up Reddit and YCombinator before that, and has received funding from Elon Musk and Bill Gates amongst many others and the comments she is probably referring to are the ones which were quoted extensively when he was testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law, and when: ‘…pressed on his own worst fear about AI, Altman mostly avoided specifics.’
Basically, he was there to distinguish between ChatGPT and social media platforms in order to duck the question of who owns what online especially when ChatGPT takes it all and many people are suing ChatGPT for stealing intellectual property and that could be costly. Of course he is going to shift the attention and say it’s out of his control otherwise he will have to take responsibility and admit to intellectual property theft.
Altman is an entrepreneur, someone who tells stories to get investors on board, something I blogged about in 2016, he doesn’t have specifics. And, since Gates started pumping money into Bing, Open AI became a lot less open to retain the competitive advantage. To me this is a specific example of what I wrote in the original post.
The one robot arm to rule them all
The lady novelist was quoting what Eliezer Yudkowsky (a podcast speculator) said. I don’t know for sure but it sounds exactly like he was quoting directly from Yoshua Bengio’s imagination: https://yoshuabengio.org/2023/06/24/faq-on-catastrophic-ai-risks/ and our lady novelist presented this as fact, because she doesn’t know anything and didn’t bother researching it before she got on a platform and spouted a lot of nonsense.
Personally, the main problem I have with Yodkowsky is that he dismissed CYC ( an immense coding project which took 35 years to build) something I talk about in the Westworld robot blogs. I guess Yudkowsky has read some Marvin Minsky who dismissed CYC too. Minsky once built a robot arm, the same sort which Bengio is saying could theoretically be built by AGI to take over the world and rub us all out. All it takes is one robot arm!
Bengio works in machine learning, which is the opposite of knowledge-based reasoning. CYC uses both as either one alone is too brittle and even then you need someone to go in and add everything else that is missing based on their years of learning. Bengio in his imaginings is saying theoretically all things are possible including the rise of the robots if you step through it logically.
Logic, to work needs rules, all the facts and a closed world, or someone adding new rules in an open world, which would take us nearer to universal reasoning, which we don’t have at all in machine learning. Machine learning doesn’t write rules, it pattern matches, so his argument gets into a bit of a loop. And, his speculation stops having any meaning for me, unless he could show me the code or first order predicate calculus (say we are modelling this Turing Machine style) which would update itself in an open world in which logic-based rules model universal reasoning running on deep learning (machine learning with human interference) which then writes the code (generative artificial intelligence) to build a lab to create robots (embodied artificial intelligence) which then all learn human habits and emotions to persuade humans to do their bidding before wiping them out – but we don’t know how to model or yet code emotions because we can barely articulate it ourselves.
So yes, organiser woman, I am disagreeing with an expert in machine learning because I have read and understood exactly what he is talking about, because of the time I have spent in that field over the last 30 years and, my opinion counts even if I don’t read CNN and take some young lad’s podcast as the last word on AI.
What I experienced over these last couple of days has felt more like playground bullying (you think you know better than them Ruth, they are experts, what do you know? ) than anything else which I add after I explain my position on AGI (basically it doesn’t exist).
Next month we are supposed to be talking about death, and really I don’t want to watch the organiser woman shutting people down in the middle of a poignant story about how someone they loved died. I cannot at all. So that’s me done. Much to the disapproval of my inner swotty self, I am dropping out and moving to another part of the playground where mean girls who exclude and humiliate wouldn’t be interested in coming, as they would have to treat other people with respect.
I thanked a couple of the ladies who got in touch to point out that being shut down in a supposedly safe space where we are encouraged to stand up and speak truth is ironic, and then I switched off.
In future, no more pompous mean girl courses for me, I’ll be sticking to a diet of AI with an extra helping of Fairytale medicine.