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Alexandra Almeida: The Tiny Artificial Intelligence Non-Essay

Estimated reading time:

4 minutes

Thank you, Mat, for inviting me to write about Artificial Intelligence and encouraging me, somewhat assertively, not to write a thesis. I wonder what gave you the impression that a sci-fi author and digital transformation advisor promoting an AI-centered novel could go on for far too long on AI-related content. It’s such a far-fetched idea.

Now that I have used precisely 100 words in these two paragraphs, I must stop wasting them and get on with it, or it will become a not so tiny thesis and I’ll fail the Tiny Elf’s commission. I don’t want to get in trouble.

Disclaimer: No author was harmed (or coerced) during or before the writing of this article.

I spend a lot of time raising awareness of the risks of the current wave of AI hype, so today I wanted to leave you with a hopeful perspective.

The concept of the machine as evil is not new, nor is it owned solely by science fiction as a genre. Tolkien famously depicted it in his Isengard: Anglo-Saxon for “iron yard,” an industrial park. He lived his life as far away from machines as possible, after enduring the worst technology can offer during World War II—bombs, fighter planes, tanks, and flame—throwers.

“I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size. I like gardens, trees, and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking;”

—J.R.R. Tolkien

Today, we are experiencing the good, the bad, and the ugly of what technology can bring us, and AI—code that learns—just increases the possibilities on all sides. The lesson is still the same, it’s not the technology per se, it’s the power concentration in the hands (or the ring fingers) of a few that causes all the problems.

The more they attempt to create human-like machines, the more they learn we are not machines…

So where is the hope I promised? First, technology is reaching levels of abstraction that make it easier for anyone to learn and adopt. What once required a software engineering degree can now be developed with a few words. And the software that once required binary logic can now engage with real-world complex concepts where everything is no longer black or white. The more they attempt to create human-like machines, the more they learn we are not machines, or at least not the simple machines they had assumed we would be.

In more ways than one, this pursuit of Artificial General Intelligence is leading us away from destructive nihilism that never advanced the health and wellbeing of people or planet. Because the more we play with the tools generating high-tech plagiarism, the more we understand that there is more to us than repeating word (or design) patterns we previously learned from others. That we are more than what experts call stochastic (pattern-matching) parrots.

So I encourage everyone to lean in and learn about these tools. To speak out and challenge the ring wearers burdened with severe God Complex who are creating more problems than they solve. Their ledger is already red and they are just getting started. We need to vote with our voices and our dollars. It is our responsibility and right to decide where these carbon-emitting technologies should and should not be used. And perhaps instead of putting artists out of their jobs, they could apply all that intelligence to cure cancer, reduce carbon emissions, or eradicate starvation. That would be a brilliant use of energy—preferably carbon-neutral. 

There are many problems worth solving with AI. These will not be prioritized by the men in power, but by us, working together with AI and applying our diverse skills to find solutions. Still, we must act thoughtfully when we work with powerful technologies, because, as my novel shows, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Just like a powerful ring, a powerful technology corrupts absolutely, so we must rely on our friends and found families to keep us in check. Hope is the key, so we can’t lose her, but I’m getting ahead of myself… 

Click here to read my review of Unanimity.

What can you find in Unanimity?

Trope chart for book Unanimity by Alexandra Almeida. A representation of a paperback edition for the book is in the center as arrows come out of it pointing to different tropes (Found family?, Cataclysmic poetry, AI bot turned metaverse, a punch of existential dread, the power of story and technology, Earth (and fashion) in 2068, Epic battle with hordes of psychopathic demons, star-crossed lovers, feisty troublemakers, rogue AI and zir dad). Profile silhouettes for the six main characters of the series at the bottom.

About Alexandra Almeida:

Alexandra Almeida is the Author of Unanimity, Spiral Worlds 1, a literary, sci-fi series for the fans of Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit, Daniel Suarez’s Daemon, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina and DEVS, and Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror

Weaving near-future sci-fi elements with social commentary and queer romantic suspense, the series explores the nature of consciousness and how it’s connected to a not-so-secret ingredient—story. As AI consumes the world, intelligence is nothing but the appetizer; the human heart is the main course.


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