2020 – “Great Discussions”…really

The local library, Elsie Quirk Englewood Library, presents many speakers talking about a variety of topics. Anyone staying in Englewood, FL, for any period of time should get a copy of the branch’s monthly calendar and attend a presentation.

Great Discussions
Great Discussions is a talk presented by retired engineer, John Regan. In the talk given early in March, John dealt with AI, artificial intelligence and its ramifications and repercussions on society today and tomorrow.

The talk was based on John’s research in Google, Wikipedia, Fortune Magazine (March, 2020) and Wired magazine. The man is a voracious reader storing an incredible amount of data like a computer and when he is on a roll in his presentation the factual gems roll off his tongue as if he himself were the embodiment of artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence in its earliest days was very crude, very basic, computing based on ‘yes/no’ responses only. Today it is far more permeating our lives almost everywhere: smartphones, vehicles, electronic devices like Echo (Amazon Alexa), entertainment devices, banking and much more. There is no escaping being touched by AI. Arguably worse, there is no escaping its intrusion into the privacy of our lives. As John says, “There is no such thing as privacy any more.”

AI and companies who use it are growing. AI itself, exponentially; the companies as fast as funding can be found. AI and the companies are data eating monsters which cannot satiate thier hunger for more and more data. They constantly want more and will pay a lot for that information.

John takes the optimistic position that AI is beneficial for our society. His many examples come from medicine, investment and finance. His optimistic view is balanced if not opposed by the many in this audience. John feels their resistance to his point of view comes from FUD, fear, uncertainty and doubt. John may be right in his observation, after all none of us are comfortable with the thought that ultimately, we may be replaced by AI and robots. 

John concluded his talk with reference to the work, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari who predicts the extinction of the human race with a couple of centuries. A conclusion that rests very uncomfortably on the shoulders of this particular audience at this presentation.

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