Lately, the world has been reading an endless stream of stories about artificial intelligence, more commonly known as AI.
By a quirk of the keyboard, an uppercase “I” (as in “Intelligence”) looks exactly like a lowercase “l” (as in “Al” — my nickname). And I’m apparently narcissistic because whenever I see a headline trumpeting “AI,” a tiny part of my brain somehow thinks it’s about me.
It’s sort of pathetic.
As it happens, though, many of the AI stories I’ve read are shot through with a dystopian, Brave New World vibe warning that AI systems could surpass human intelligence and become uncontrollable.
The result is that I’m consuming a constant barrage of mostly negative messaging with my name written in bold headlines, such as:
“When will AI be smart enough to outsmart people?” (MIT School of Engineering, undated post).
“AI isn’t ready to make unsupervised decisions” (Harvard Business School, 9/15/22).
“Giving AI direct control over anything is a bad idea” (TheConversation.com, July 31).
None of this is healthy for me.
Not a fan of ‘Alfred’
I never liked my name. It belonged to my maternal grandfather, Alfredo Levantini of Pescara, Italy, whom I loved. But “Alfred,” British in origin, feels stiff and austere. Also, it derives from a Germanic word meaning “elf.” At 6-foot-3, I never saw that as a good fit.
Once, ‘Alfred’ was all the rage.
Back in 1880, the moniker was considered mighty spiffy, listed as the 35th-most-popular American baby name for boys (the girl equivalent was Eva), according to the U.S. Social Security Administration database. (Most recently, by the way, No. 35 is Jayden for boys, Emily for girls, according to BabyCenter.com.)
But by last year, “Alfred,” the uptight elf, had dropped to No. 1,768. And no one’s predicting a comeback.
Over the years, I’ve concluded that “AI” as a nickname is a little better than my given name. But, of course, now even that’s ruined.
To fight back, I’ve countered the negative headlines with some face-saving rejoinders:
“AI has a hotness problem” (The Atlantic, 10/24). Of course I do, I’m over 60.
“AI still needs improvement” (Reddit, 11/28/22). See above.
“What Will Happen If AI Took Over Humanity?” (LinkedIn Pulse, May 5). Lots of cannoli and Earth, Wind & Fire.
“Will AI ever reach human level intelligence? We asked five experts” (The Conversation.com, April 18). I didn’t realize raisins were grapes until an embarrassingly late age. But I’m making progress.
“Why is today’s AI still considered weak Al?” (TS2.Space, Oct. 14). Come on, man, that’s just not very nice.