What would the Dalai Lama do?
May 3, 2018

Artificial Intelligence: Pros and Cons

In this country, one third of the population is worried about losing their jobs to the likes of Siri, Alexa or Watson. Another third is hoping to find solutions to their problems in the likes of Siri, Alexa, or Watson. The remaining third is going to be indicted by Robert Mueller.

I belong to the second group, the hopeful bunch. I’m counting on computers to prevent me from making any more catastrophic decisions, such as buying a house in Coral Gables, where eight municipal inspectors must approve the color of your toilet paper — four before you use it, and four after.

I’m also hoping computers will persuade my wife that I’m right most of the time, especially when it comes to real estate decisions in South Florida. I imagine an app where I can compare two houses, my wife’s choice and mine. We would input the address of the two houses, divided by the price of renovations, multiplied by the number of times contractors don’t show up on time, minus the cost of bribes, I mean permits. The algorithm would then produce a profile of our mental health ten years hence. Then, accounting for the cost of psychiatric care, Alexa would tell you what house to buy. Simple.

Since 98% of Miami drivers lack a prefrontal cortex, I also imagine artificially inseminated frontal lobes, which can easily be implanted in plastic surgery clinics. To incentivize citizens, the government would pay for the new lobes while people get their butts done. No more texting and driving. No more driving in reverse on the I-95. The future is bright.

Imagine, Watson could figure out where David Beckham should build his new soccer stadium, preventing much tedium. To deal with traffic problems, commissioners could ask Siri whether to invest in more trains, rapid buses, or suicide hot lines.

I’m not worried about computers making me redundant though, since none of them can make self-deprecating jokes about having big ears and a girly voice. Besides, if machines ever replace professors, I can always get a job in the City of Coral Gables as a septic tank inspector. I want to see Siri do that!

I am hopeful about artificial intelligence, but not uncritical though. The other day I got an invitation to present my “illustrious research” at a conference dealing with Astrophysics. I think the program confused me with the other Isaac, who demonstrated that if you get hit by an apple you can’t sue the owner of the tree because gravity is an act of God. To be honest, all the astrophysics I know I got from the Big Bang Theory, which is not much. I know about it as much as Penny does (If you don’t know who Penny is, or what show I’m talking about, you need some intelligence, of any sort).

Artificial intelligence has definite limits. These programs don’t understand that after I buy something from a website, I’m done, I don’t want any more advertising about something I already bought. After I ordered a ridiculously expensive pair of ON runners, made in Switzerland, I don’t want to see any more ads reminding me how much I spent on them. That’s it, I’m done. I already got my runners. Stop it, you artificially dumb program!

Similarly, after I make a political donation, I don’t want to make another one to the same candidate. That’s it. These ads actually turn me against these candidates. Please leave my screen! I already gave you money.

These ads populate especially the Miami Herald webpage, which feels like a piranha attack in a Hitchcock movie. You have to close so many ads before you can actually read something that, by the time you get to the article, Beckham has already chosen another site for his soccer stadium, and the President has lavished praise on another dictator.





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