The Odd Couple: The Far From Obvious Connections Between AI and Transgendering
I’m publishing this series of articles to share and discuss my ruminations on coping with a troubled and messy world. You can “follow” me to never miss an article.
While I’m constantly taken aback by the failure to draw connections between things that bear on one another, I’m no longer surprised by it. Indeed, the stranger and the more they appear far apart, the more difficult it is to see the possible connections.
Two articles in The New York Times are a prime case[i]. Where the one focuses on the endless efforts by Republicans to discredit Transgenders, the other extols the ability of AI to mimic if not surpass Human Insight.
The first highlights the relatively few numbers of cases that have chosen to Detransition. Some who’ve Transgendered just miss their former selves and thereby feel they’ve made a mistake. Others are beaten down by the constant, negative social pressures by families, friends, and most of all, Conservatives directed against them. Others are literally sick of the side effects of the hormone treatments that they’ve had to take. Whatever the reasons, Conservatives have used them to demonize Transgenders.
The second extols the virtues of AI to mimic Human Insight. Thus, AI programs are able to compose poetry, write computer programs, and draw conclusions from complex text. Nonetheless, Alison Gopnik, a Professor of Psychology and part of the AI research group at UC Berkeley, said that it’s not clear that the text generated by AI systems like GPT-4 was the result of something like Human reasoning, let alone common sense. Even more to the point, she notes that we’re especially prone to Anthropomorphizing anything that is complex, thereby elevating it more than we should.
The connection between the two? I worry that as AI is used more and more in aiding complex decisions that it will take over and make them without our full knowledge and consent. I therefore worry that it will intrude on making difficult Medical and Life-Altering decisions.
The bold claims that are constantly made for AI are cause for worry. Thus, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, testified before Congress calling for it to regulate AI[ii]. The trouble is that members of Congress do not have the technical knowledge to complete the task. They are thereby beholden to those who make the Technology to guide both them and us in its regulation. Talk about conflicts of interest.
The negative impacts of the unintended consequences of Technology have never been greater.
[i] Maggie Astor, “G.O.P. Focuses On Testimonies Of Trans Regret,” The New York Times, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, PP A1 and A14; Cade Metz, “Microsoft Says New A.I. Nears Human Insight,” The New York Times, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, PP A1 and A18.
[ii] Cecilia King, “Right Now,” The New York Times, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, PP B1 and B4.
Ian I. Mitroff is credited as being one of the principal founders of the modern field of Crisis Management. He has a BS, MS, and a PhD in Engineering and the Philosophy of Social Systems Science from UC Berkeley. He is Professor Emeritus from the Marshall School of Business and the Annenberg School of Communication at USC. Currently, he is a Senior Research Affiliate in the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management, UC Berkeley. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Management. He has published 41 books. His most recent are: Techlash: The Future of the Socially Responsible Tech Organization, Springer, New York, 2020. The Psychodynamics of Enlightened Leadership; Coping with Chaos, Co-authored with Ralph H. Kilmann, Springer, New York, 2021. His latest is: The Socially Responsible Organization: Lessons from Covid 19, Springer, New York, 2022.