The Inevitable Technology Might Not Be

What if AI went the way of vaccines?

Remember when everyone loved the idea of being free of all sorts of diseases that used to kill millions a year? Remember way, way, back when that correlated to the amount of progress with vaccines? Remember when people trusted and wanted to advance medicine? Somehow this isn’t the case anymore and a large segment of the populace all across the more western bits of the globe aren’t interested.

Decades and even centuries of work to battle diseases that we now have the privilege of not even being aware of in our lives, because nobody currently is suffering from them and the village isn’t being wiped out by them, are somehow not a thing. A lot of people seem to be absolutely unaware of what life was like before today’s vaccines and aren’t really interested in this particular and once thought inevitable idea of of progress.

A century ago when people lined up desperate for polio vaccines, this would have been unimaginable. For a long time it was assumed that we would have more and better vaccines and less and less life threatening and avoidable life altering diseases. It all seemed inevitable that it continue forever that way. Sure enough polio, a crippling disease easily avoidable might be back.

What if AI was the same?

What if the AI-hesitant starting having as much or even more influence in government and in academia? What if then that funding dried up? Many talk about the genie being out of the bottle with Large Language Model (LLM) things like ChatGPT which nobody can stop talking about. But history teaches us nothing is inevitable. It’s imaginable for whatever reason, philosophical, political or even religious, that people who actively stop using it and then, well you know where this is going if you read the previous paragraph. But people see AI as inevitable because the future to us looks linear. You could have said the same thing about vaccines not even a mere twenty years ago.

While there is a clear 0 to about 0.5 shift in technology, there are some signs things might not go all hockey stick always on the up. For instance, one of the pioneers of autonomous driving has publicly stated, many times, that it’s going in reality pretty much nowhere. Sure, AI has all these benefits on one hand, is terrifying for or potentially terrifying for most Americans and others on the other. As we know, divisive issues generally produce extreme, and personal responses, one of which could be to be actively against a technology on some moral grounds. And then money stops being made and the language models dry up, or the millions of dollars A DAY it takes to keep ChatGPT alive aren’t worth it to the investors anymore.