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Appily ever after

Appily ever after

THE MUSIC MAKER ·

The big question is: where will our unquenchable thirst for technological advancement end?

PETER EDGERTON WWW.PETEREDGERTON.COM

Friday, 10 February 2023, 13:25

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Usually, when somebody thrusts a mobile phone in my face demanding immediate attention, I recoil like a cobra, partly to avoid a broken nose and partly to avoid having to peer at a photo of somebody else's dinner or, even worse, some mirthless meme or other. Last week, however, there occurred a phone-thrust moment which really piqued my interest. It concerned an artificial intelligence app which mimicks human writing styles.

"Look at this, Peter. It'll answer any question you ask." The chap concerned held his phone up to my blinking eyes. I thought back to my years studying history and realised I could barely recall a thing, except for one essay that my tutor had said was "eminently unimpressive".

"Ask it why the Ottoman empire ultimately declined," I spluttered, wondering if the app SmartyPants or whatever it was called could do any better than I had. It could. Within seconds the app had produced a short, considered essay detailing the many and varied factors which led to the Ottoman downfall.

"Blimey, that's scary," was all I could think of to say. It was scary. It is scary.

There is an upside, though. University professors will now have to actually do a bit of hard work, instead of swanning about the campus with a copy of some tome they wrote that no-one except their mother will ever read. They'll now need to fathom a way of working out how much of their students' offerings is their own original opinion and how much was downloaded from a nebulous database while the students themselves were cracking open a few cans of Watney's Party Seven or whatever today's equivalent is. A quinoa and almond milk smoothie, no doubt.

Anyway, the big question is: where will our unquenchable thirst for technological advancement end? Maybe we should just call a moratorium for a while in order to take stock. This could include an international day of phone-freeness. Just as, on the international day of yoga, we're all encouraged to assume the lotus position and clear our minds of any thought worthy of having, phone-freeness day would entail our leaving our mobiles in the kitchen drawer and lifting our heads to a wholly unfamiliar upright position.

If I had a penny for every time somebody has told me unequivocally that artificial intelligence is the future, I'd be richer than Elon Musk. Time will tell but, just as it's quite possible we'll one day be living among holograms, it's also feasible that we'll consider too much technological advancement to be mere folly and resort to simpler, more innocent ways. Like writing eminently unimpressive essays and cracking open the Watney's Party Sevens, for example.

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