A few thoughts on the impending AI-pocalypse
It's good to know people (you) waay smarter than me think on the same page. Age is my advantage, here. I remember when Texas Instruments was going to be the downfall of society because kids wouldn't learn how to do sums in their head. My father said the beginning of the end was when they started installing safety brakes on lawn mowers...to keep humans from putting hands into a running mower grass port.(c'mon now) Now, my husband's 7th graders cannot read a map, nor an analog clock( he is fighting that good fight). I just saw a post from my closing attorney urging Millenials to learn how to SIGN.THEIR.NAME. so to be able to close on their home purchase. So, what to do? Teach by example and "throw some knowledge" to the ones capable of seeing the difference.Nothing sexier than a debate at a high level, be it history, science, music(Mahler 5), gardening, cooking. All sexy. Water will find it's easier course and folks will find their footing again. Easiest path is to follow Gene Rodenberry and be ready. He has been on-point, so far.
Thanks for what you do.
I'm five minutes away from starting the first class of this semester with a new group of future historians, in hellish heat without air conditioning, and this post has made me completely and utterly happy. I will add this point to today's introductory topic. We will see what the new generations think about it.
Thank you for the "AI for Dummies" overview, it was really helpful in getting a basic understanding of how AI works in terms of mining for information and creating an output.
One thing occurred to me after reading your article - do you think fear about the rise of AI will slow down the trend of digitization and free dissemination of archival records, manuscripts, etc.? If this information is not on the internet for AI to mine, there is a sort of job security for the tweed and elbow patch crowd, along with librarians and archivists, in having to physically go to say the Bodleian, request a document, review it in its original form, and then return it.
I am currently sat in Madrid airport departures so plenty of time to read and digest.
I was blessed with two amazing history teachers at school. One was very particular that we did not talk "male bovine excreta" (swearing was not allowed). It meant we had to think before we spoke, a trait I lost a long time ago. However AI will.not be able to offer that sense of debate and discussion, which is healthy between humans. It is yet another tool in the box, feather in the cap, notch on the bed post for helping to develop the nwxt generation of good history teachers and historians.
Right where are the giant toblerones and bottles of sangria?!
AI write me a Medieval soap opera in the style of historian Dan Jones.
Would the computer explode?
You know I would have to comment on this (for those of your readers who don't know, I run a travel technology company based, in part, on AI). First, of course, you are absolutely correct that AI will not replace good teaching. It will simply be a new tool for research and also to augment the skills of a gifted instructor. One item that you briefly touched upon, but bears a bit more scrutiny, is the issue of bias within AI. Remember that ChatGPT is a language model in a class of generative pre-trained transformers (that's the GPT part). So, it strings words together without analysis. Most of the other AI models that are gaining public appeal are similar. This means that they arrange language with 'facts' gleaned from the internet in ways that are structurally and conversationally accurate. This does not mean, however, that the information is accurate. The model's information is only as good as the content of the internet (and it obviously tries to remove offensive content like porn, violence, etc.) and we all know the information on the internet can be wildly inaccurate. Basically, these systems are like a parrot that is good at mimicking but does not and cannot interpret what it is saying. This results in innocuous and sometimes humorous results, and often in heavily biased results because of the volume of content on the internet that may espouse a particular view.
My Historiography professor drummed into us that it is important to understand the point of view of the writer because that will always colour the history that is written. In university, we read some of the very best and very worst examples of bias but it was always pretty simple to understand the point of view of a Tacitus, Einhard, Gibbon or Henry Adams. With these new AI tools, it is not always possible to understand where the biases arise because the machine does not hold a view, as you said, it is just using a mathematical pattern matching algorithm. What this says to me is that it will be increasingly apparent that these tools are just awful at teaching and writing history.
Now, I wouldn't be surprised if some historians are using these tools (this would explain some of the more boring and mundane parts of the recent work _What is History, Now?_, for example 😂). I doubt that those historians will be successful with the tools beyond basic research.
Now, what these tools would be very good at, however, is proof-reading. This could be helpful for writers to check their manuscripts.
As usual you have presented a new bit about a not at unusual “latest thing to cause the greater public CONCERNS”
And also made good sense of it all!
History is my favorite thing in the world. I had amazing history teachers in Junior High School...US history, world history. Then I got Mr. Foster. He brutally murdered any and all love for history. Now 40 years later I'm trying to catch up. I read everything I can. I'm grateful that I can go to the internet and find out what I want to know BUT not much compares to prowling around a bookstore or library searching things out on my own.
Who'd have thought James Cameron would turn out to be the modern Nostradamus? Even though the opening minutes of Terminator 2 are spine chilling and eerily getting nearer, they still beat the turgid 162 minutes of Avatar. 😂
Seriously though, that was a very thought provoking read and one I'll share with the managerial staff at work, might just put the wind up them. Being a manual worker, I'll just spend the rest of my life enslaved to the machines.
I work in central IT at a fairly large university and if I had a dollar for every time that a single Human Being was the difference between everything blowing up and The Machine continuing to work smoothly with nary an interruption, I'd be rich. Human Beings are not being outpaced by The Machine. The Machine isn't good enough. Not yet, anyways.
"creeping ubiquity of sensitivity"
This is what keeps me up at night
Well that and wondering when the Substack is coming
I had a terrible history teacher at senior school. He was more interested in being strict and instilling fear in us students than instilling passion for the subject. Me being a timid, introverted child was just terrified of him so when it was time to choose subjects for GCSE I just noped right out of history even though I think I would have done well at it. I remember he had a poster on the classroom wall with the correct contractions of could have instead of could of, would have instead of would of etc. and he'd get very angry about spelling and grammar errors in students' work but I remember precious little of the history he taught.
Thanks Dan. Enjoyed reading through this, and found it quite thought provoking.
This was funny and informative
This is precisely why any takeover won't happen soon - people still crave and cherish human interaction. If there are those who go out out to shops and rent out DVDs in the USA to this day, c'mon... Not to mention the existence of printed media, landline phones and so on... History jobs and all others are safe for a few generations to come while there are still dinosaurs out there :D
Dan, I have loved history all my life. I still do. I was an army brat and sometimes had bad teachers but mostly was lucky and had good teachers. I love reading from historians and getting your opinions about history and facts to back this up as much as you know. I cannot imagine robots in classrooms. I believe in human connections. I want my grandchildren to learn from a human being who is able to help them and be there to explain not some robot spewing out facts.. Also, I believe all children need real people. Don't worry, I read your whole article. Give me a book any day and less social media.☺