Tendency toward Over-Eagerness or Apathy

Given the relative novelty of Artificial Intelligence and the immense amount of fascination that AI garners through popular representations, it stands to reason that it would be a polarizing topic. Harold Cohen identified this split as consisting of “un-sceptical believers and unbelieving sceptics” [13]. Each extreme carries unique consequences in its treatment of AI.

A tangible result of over-eagerness is excessive hype about how AI can provide us with a perfect future where all our problems are solved. This mentality can inadvertently trivialize very real and pressing concerns, such as climate change and wealth disparity, since they will likely be ‘solved by AI.’ Currently there is a substantial push to prepare for the repercussions of a hostile Artificial Intelligence; indeed, “[c]ombatting climate change as such is therefore seen as less urgent by the majority of investors than combatting robots” [14]. While AI exists as an excellent tool for tackling inefficiency and other complicated challenges, its existence does not ensure that these issues will be automatically taken care of. Humans must take responsibility for these issues and address them simultaneously with developments of AI.

“Un-sceptical believers” tend to accept the premise without comprehending the full extent of what is happening and what is at stake. Unfounded optimism generates a heat that lacks substance and burns out when expectations are not met. This repeatedly occurs in the field of AI. It suddenly gains attention and interest when a breakthrough occurs and then, just as quickly, loses it when there is a pause in its progress. A thorough understanding of existing limitations can temper idealized conceptions of AI and prevent this cycle of trending and collapse.

On the other end of the spectrum are “unbelieving sceptics” who see little potential in a future with AI and prefer to not engage. One publication about Harold Cohen’s work insists that he prioritized development of Artificial Intelligence over “issues germane to contemporary art” and concludes that “AARON'S images, whatever their formal virtues, demonstrate how far we have to go before art as a human activity is truly threatened” [15]. These flippant and absolutist conclusions fail to engage effectively with Cohen’s vision for AARON and exemplify some of the bias and fears that many skeptics have about AI—that machine intelligence inherently poses a risk to the future of humanity.

If the only people who have a reasonable understanding of what AI is and how it functions are those who are motivated for the purposes of profit, AI’s development is going to be severely lopsided or even catastrophic. What is arguably even more insidious is the tendency of those who fund these developments to fall into these extreme categories and to act accordingly, which is a topic we will consider further in later sections.