Artificial Intelligence 101: Understanding the power of AI and its dangers

ByCheryl Mettendorf and Chad Pradelli WPVI logo
Tuesday, June 4, 2024
Understanding the power of artificial intelligence and its dangers
Artificial Intelligence 101: Understanding the power of AI and its dangers

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Artificial intelligence is rapidly evolving.

We hear about it often, but many people are uninformed about how they're currently using it and don't know how to incorporate it in their daily lives.

AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in computers or machines that are programmed to think and learn like humans.

The technology is designed to perform tasks like visual perception, speech recognition, decision making and language translation.

From Apple's Siri to Google's Alexa and many customer service chatbots, you're likely already enmeshed in AI.

Social media networks even use the technology to analyze your behavior and moderate hate speech.

Inside the University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering and Applied Science, professor Chris Callison-Burch showed us ChatGPT, which is a system that allows people to create images with a simple text prompt.

We input "robot sitting at desk working." Within seconds images appeared.

"That's a pretty good image," said Chad Pradelli.

"It's pretty good," replied Callison-Burch.

Professor Callison-Burch also scripted a movie in ChatGPT. Fantastical but life-like characters came to life through its image generator.

In everyday life, ChatGPT and similar programs can also be used to help plan a presentation, write a resume, or even brainstorm ideas.

"So, I am typing, 'Let's brainstorm ideas of an interview about AI introducing tools to the general public,'" said Callison-Burch.

Within a few seconds, ChatGPT presented us with detailed topics in an organized format to discuss.

"Took longer for me to type in a prompt than it did for GPT to generate a coherent output," he said.

Professor Callison-Burch said everyone should be experimenting with AI technologies.

Some are free, while others require subscriptions or a combination of both.

"Ultimately it's going to become part of everyone's everyday job," said Callison-Burch.

"Should people be concerned about their careers and jobs?" asked Chad Pradelli.

"I think it's still too early to see how widespread this effect will be," Callison-Burch replied.

But users of generative AI need to be careful. Traditional AI excels at analyzing data and performing specific tasks. Generative AI goes a step further, focusing on creating new content like text, images, music and more. It is also designed to learn and make decisions.

"I personally would not be comfortable turning over to generative AI model, access to my bank accounts, and having it act on what it perceives my instructions to be," said professor Michael Kearns.

Kearns is also a professor of AI at the University of Pennsylvania. He and others said AI can "hallucinate," meaning output things that are confidently stated but not grounded in fact -- meaning simply not true.

It's also created a flood of what's called "deepfakes," which are artificial images or video manipulated to influence elections, harm individuals, or just spread disinformation.

"I think there's going be some serious policy issues and societal issues that we're all going to have to grapple with," said Kearns.

Other AI concerns deal with bias and discrimination, and concerns generative AI will understand it is smarter than humans and best to make decisions.

Pennsylvania and several other states have begun passing legislation in an effort to control the wave of artificial intelligence coming our way.