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Rejected By A Chair – Why We Need the Weird World of AI
Welcome to the future.
AI weird is here, y'all. Welcome to the future.
This week, La-Z-Boy announced the "Decliner." (Honestly, if they weren’t also running a giveaway with this, I wouldn’t believe it was real.) Ready to kick back for an evening of Netflix and popcorn, when suddenly you get an invitation to a party? Never fear, pull that recline lever and – BAM – it declines that invite for you. No, Karen, I won't be attending your cat's birthday party.
Actual sample output from their giveaway site: “I'd love to come, but my pet rock needs a bath that day,” or “I'd love to come, but I believe me mixing with the general population could lead to permanent damage to society. Let's avoid that, shall we?” … I may use that last one.
Or around the globe, Pak ‘n’ Save, a grocery store in New Zealand, launched an app that will happily give you recipes for chlorine gas, poison bread sandwiches, and mosquito-repellent roast potatoes. Om nom nom.
Of course this comes with some user sensibility here - I don’t expect anyone entering in bug repellent into a meal planner to actually be serious, and if they are, the app’s the least of their worries.
No, this is obviously weird. We can all tell this is obviously weird.
There’s two larger takeaways here.
Time To Refresh Your Skepticism
A programmer friend of mine asked recently, “why should we expect technology to be right all the time? When did that start?”
It’s an excellent question. Tech is still code, written by human beings. Long before AI we have had blue screens of death, crashing drones, false missile alerts, and GPSs directing you to the middle of nowhere, not to mention the everyday “wtf is happening” moments on our devices.
But we were familiar with how our tech was likely to be wrong. We already knew when to throw a side-eye, and when to settle into some recommendations from your favorite audio player.
AI changes all that, and then some.
Because, I mean … if you download a recipe builder on your phone, you probably don’t expect it’s going to help you make chlorine gas. 😅 And while that’s an obvious no-no (…probably?), there’s going to be other ways AI will respond or react in ways we aren’t quite ready for, that are significantly more subtle, but also still maybe not so great.
So just stay aware, mmm-k? Because,
This Is Exactly The Kind Of Weird We Need
AI is going to crack open new worlds. AI has the potential to help us do some ridiculously cool stuff.
Did you know that contrails from planes (the white cloudy trails they leave in the sky) account for roughly 35% of aviation’s global warming impact? So if contrails could be reduced, that would be some cool shit (no pun intended)!
AI can help with that. Right now they’re using AI to study and develop flight paths that reduce contrail creation.
Or, AI is being used to help count penguin poop from space. (Yeah no that’s really what I wrote.) By doing so, scientists are able to make better recommendations for protected areas, learn about penguin diets, etc, etc. Plus they can say they count penguin poop from space.
We need people coming up with weird ideas for AI and trying them out. Because it’s the same type of thinking that has your chair send a rejection text to your weekend date, that’s also going to save penguins and cure cancer*.
So bring on the weird, the creative, the unconventional. I’m here for it all.
*While it has nothing to do with AI directly (as far as I can tell), this story is pretty exciting.