Barry McNamara  |  Published June 30, 2023

Life in 2100, Part V

Developments are occurring at an “astounding” rate in the world of artificial intelligence, says Monmouth computer science professor Logan Mayfield.

CHATGPT: Although it's been around for far less than a year, the new form of artificial intel... CHATGPT: Although it's been around for far less than a year, the new form of artificial intelligence is nearing 800 million hits on a Google search, with no signs of slowing down.MONMOUTH, Ill. – The changes that Michael Solontoi discussed regarding advancements in outer space will all take time, and the year 2100 may actually be too soon for many of them to come to fruition. That is the opposite of developments in artificial intelligence, which are occurring at a mind-blowing pace.

(Read Part I here)

(Read Part II here)

(Read Part III here)

(Read Part IV here)

“It’s almost ludicrous to make predictions with AI,” said Monmouth computer science professor Logan Mayfield. “The kind of pace that the technology is being developed is pretty astounding.”

Consider this: Humans had the upper hand when it came to playing the ancient strategy game Go for around 2,500 years. But fed only very basic rules information, a computer recently taught itself to play at a world-class master level in a remarkably short time span.

“Using reinforcement learning, it progressed from nothing to master level in just three days, which is wild stuff,” said Mayfield.

LOGAN MAYFIELD: A lot has changed in the world of artificial intelligence since the Monmouth comp... LOGAN MAYFIELD: A lot has changed in the world of artificial intelligence since the Monmouth computer science professor was interviewed for the original "Life in 2100" series over a decade ago.Or this: In the decade since Mayfield was first interviewed about life in 2100, AI has certainly had its share of headlines. But the development of ChatGPT, a form of AI released a mere seven months ago, is well on its way toward generating one billion (that’s with a “b”) Google search hits. It stood at 783 million in late June.

“AI is big business,” said Mayfield. “It’s barreling along with discoveries, and there are real problems that could arise from it. It’s not clear when or how we’ll step back and have a conversation about it.”

In his wide-ranging discussion on the pros and cons of AI, Mayfield expressed a pair of sentiments shared earlier by his faculty colleagues on other futuristic issues – one regarding “who will have access” to the artificial intelligence and the other being “it could be good or bad, depending on what people do with it.”

He also focused some of his thoughts on a pair of common activities – baseball and driving.

“Automated vehicles will become more and more commonplace,” he said. “It’s easy to underestimate the impact that will have.”

The first domino to fall in the automated driving world, Mayfield believes, will be knocked over by companies.

“With an automated driver, trucks don’t need to stop for sleep. You’ll have less of a need for truck stops and hotels. These are life-changing impacts.” Logan Mayfield

“I feel pretty confident we’ll have automated commercial driving. We’re already seeing it, and the technology is getting better and better. And there are ramifications to that with things like roadside infrastructure. With an automated driver, trucks don’t need to stop for sleep. You’ll have less of a need for truck stops and hotels. These are life-changing impacts.”

Further down that road, so to speak, Mayfield said the self-driving revolution could lead to businesses that allow a human to get behind the wheel and experience the nostalgia of driving.

“There’ll be places you can go and actually drive a car,” he said. “I can see that becoming a thing.”

As time marches on toward 2100, that consumer could be driving for the first time, experiencing what it was like in “the old days” they’d only heard stories about, much like how we think of the way our 19th-century ancestors traveled on horseback and in stagecoaches.

Human employees striking out?

It was around the time of the stagecoach’s heyday in the United States that professional baseball captured the attention of the general public. Starting in the 1860s, the sport was known as “America’s pastime.”

Calling it that at any point during the first two decades of the 21st century, though, would be inaccurate, and it’s an example of what can happen when technology and analytics take center stage and the “human element” is lessened or eliminated.

Cognizant of the decrease in fan interest and of plays that made the sport so beloved, several rules were changed for the 2023 season of Major League Baseball, including a ban on the analytics-driven “shift” of fielders.

“If you take away umpires, you take away a human part of the game. And that’s what we’re seeing in other areas as well – taking human beings out of more and more tasks.” Logan Mayfield

“We perhaps went too far, so we’re changing it back to a presentation of baseball that we like,” said Mayfield.

He said MLB rule makers have a pending decision that is much like the choices being dictated by ChatGPT and automated driving.

“They’re already experimenting with automated umpires for balls and strikes in the minor leagues, although it’s not a huge success,” said Mayfield, who sported a St. Louis Cardinals hat during his interview. “If you take away umpires, you take away a human part of the game. And that’s what we’re seeing in other areas as well – taking human beings out of more and more tasks.”

Mayfield referenced Player Piano, the 1952 book by Kurt Vonnegut. In the author’s debut novel, widespread mechanization creates conflict between the wealthy upper class, engineers and managers, who all keep society running, and the lower class, whose skills and purpose in society have been replaced by machines.

“It’s incredibly relevant to right now,” said Mayfield. “That might be one of the real changes in society – the jobs we take away. We might find out that people really need to work,” a lesson that was reinforced during the chaotic first few months of the COVID pandemic.

Another sci-fi plot Mayfield referenced was the Pixar movie WALL-E, set in 2805. Some 700 years earlier – or right around our target year of 2100 – rampant consumerism, corporate greed and environmental neglect had turned Earth into a garbage-strewn wasteland.

“Machines do all the stuff for us, and we sit around in a chair, getting fat,” he said of the plot of the 2008 movie. “If we don’t have to do anything for ourselves, we become ignorant slobs. What happens to us when our cleverness takes all these jobs away? That’s the challenge – to live in the way we like and to do stuff, even though we have the technology to not do it.”

Mayfield also addressed the doomsday scenario with AI, a nightmare depicted in the 2004 Will Smith movie, I, Robot, when robots mobilize against humanity.

“Many fear that AI creations are conscious, but we’re not there yet,” he said. “But we are automating things we didn’t think we could automate. We’re getting pretty good at it, and the pace is moving right along.”

“It’s more and more probable that we’ll have that – people buying their maid. Roomba will get a real serious upgrade, which is wild, in and of itself.” Logan Mayfield

In 1962, the animated series The Jetsons debuted, envisioning a century into the future. One of the characters was Rosie, the Jetson family’s robotic maid and housekeeper.

“It’s more and more probable that we’ll have that – people buying their maid,” said Mayfield. “Roomba will get a real serious upgrade, which is wild, in and of itself.”

The professor hesitated to make any other predictions about how life in 2100 might look. In the world of artificial intelligence, trying to look ahead just a few years is a hard enough task. After all, one of the page one hits for that ChatGPT Google search was “ChatGPT: How to use the AI tool that’s changing everything.”

The technology that is quite possibly “changing everything” wasn’t even a thing at this time a year ago.

“We could do this exercise again in five years and laugh at what we came up with today,” said Mayfield.

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