Stoneage Ramblings

By John R. Stone

You’ve probably read some things about artificial intelligence over the past few years. It’s here and it is getting better, and more dangerous all the time.

Actually it has been with us for some time. Machines that automatically reorder supplies for a store might be one example. You probably get bugged by some of it in robo calls to your home where a voice tries to steer you to a live person who will try to sell you something.

You run into it when you are on the internet. A computer is tracking the things you look at and shows you more ads for things it thinks you might be interested in. Amazon is a big user of this kind of technology.

Newer things like ChatGTP can actually create some things as opposed to merely responding to specific limited categories presented to it. This AI can create sentences and there was concern about it being used to create high school or college theme papers so students didn’t need to do any research or creative thinking of their own.

Sometimes these programs can work well, sometimes not so well we learned in a Senior College class at Alexandria Technical College last spring. Our instructor had requested that a ChaGTP type program create a biography of a person with a specific name.

Some of the information in the biography was quite accurate, some of it quite inaccurate such as that the person had been the author of five books and listed each of the books of which the person was the author by name.

So it is a work in progress but with billions being spent on it it will get much better.

Technology also exists to fake video. A 60 Minutes program a while ago had a segment on video that was totally faked and showed a person speaking saying things that person never had said.

These kind of technologies might seem amusing to some but they can provide a real threat, the threat being what is the truth anyway?

It has been pretty well proven that the Russians were involved in spreading misinformation in the U.S. presidential races of 2016 and 2020 and probably more before that. They do that to get voters to favor a candidate who they think will be most favorable to them. I can’t imagine that China isn’t doing the same thing for the same reason, and probably some other nations as well.

The candidates may not even know that this is going on or to what extent it is going on. Such collusion would probably be illegal or in violation of some campaign laws. If candidates did know.

This makes it all the harder to determine what the truth really is, which means we really need to be careful.

Many electronic media like Facebook are considered aggregators, they gather news, or what someone creates as news, and distribute it. The are not legally responsible for the content because they are shielded by Federal law.

Newspapers, television and radio stations are not so protected, if a person runs false news that hurts someone they can be sued. Most have policies in place to quickly correct errors, after all nobody is perfect 100% of the time. Opinions are constitutionally protected free speech but they should be based upon fact or the facts they are based upon, if cited, should be accurate. The Internet itself is an aggregator.

As we head into another political campaign season (are we ever really out of one?) we’ll start seeing these technologies that deal with fake news get more and more damaging. With the world electronically linked through the Internet, fake news can be spread worldwide in seconds.

Letting aggregators off the hook for their content no longer makes sense. With new technologies making fake news easier to produce, those who pass it on to need step up, be responsible, and make sure it is true before passing it on.