“Sorry for killing most of humanity”: The Museum of Artificial Intelligence, San Francisco

“Sorry, person with a smile and a hat and a moustache, for killing most of humanity,” says an artificial intelligence (AI)-equipped screen to a visitor who walks through the door of the “Museum of Difference,” a new exhibit on this controversial technology in San Francisco.

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Both disturbing and humorous—features common to the majority of the works on display—the computer is programmed to identify and announce three characteristics about each individual who enters its field of view.

The point is that we are in a post-apocalyptic world where artificial general intelligence has wiped out most of humanity. explains Audrey Kim, the show’s director, with a laugh.

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So-called “general” artificial intelligence is a murkier concept than artificial intelligence.

“It is an artificial intelligence that is able to do everything that humans can do, and also act on itself (…) like an object capable of repairing itself for example,” the curator suggests.

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San Francisco and nearby Silicon Valley are teeming with startups designing different types of artificial intelligence. Some dream of one day being able to collaborate with a machine almost as well as with a human.

Realistic or not, this ambition and these efforts have a powerful “destructive potential,” as Audrey Kim asserts.

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Through her temporary exhibition, which she hopes to make permanent, she wants to encourage reflection on current and future risks associated with artificial intelligence.

In the middle of the room is a revised version of Michelangelo’s famous painting, The Creation of Adam, in which an illusory AI detects a foot with 98% certainty, a person (84%) and God (60%).

Furthermore, the piano plays music composed by real AI without humans, based on the growth of bacteria grown in a lab.

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Audrey Kim is particularly fond of a statue called “Paperclip Embrace” or “Embrace en trombones”: two busts of human beings holding each other in the arms, made entirely of paper clips.

The work refers to a metaphor for philosopher Nick Bostrom, who in the 2000s imagined what might happen if real AI were programmed to create paper clips.

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“It can become more powerful, constantly improving itself to achieve its sole purpose, to the point of destroying all of humanity in order to flood the world with paper clips,” says the director.

She’s been interested in the implications of AI and “machine learning” since she worked a few years ago at Cruise, a company that specializes in self-driving cars.

It’s an “incredible” technology, “that can reduce the number of accidents caused by human error,” but it also has risks, she said.

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Innovations in artificial intelligence seem to be picking up pace in the past year with the boom of software capable of creating all kinds of text and images, instantly, based on user queries.

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Their ability to express themselves like humans is so deceptive that a Google engineer, who was later dismissed, said last spring that AI was now “sentient.”

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In the near term, generative AI is a concern for educators (they encounter articles written using ChatGPT), artists (whose work has been used to train certain models), and many other professions.

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Associations have also fought for years against invasions of privacy (through facial recognition) and algorithmic biases that reproduce existing discrimination (in recruitment software, for example).

Sam Altman, founder of OpenAI, the startup behind the GPT-3 model and ChatGPT, defines AI as when “AI systems are generally smarter than humans.”

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His coming seems inevitable, and he believes that, if well orchestrated, he will “uplift mankind.”

In the gallery’s basement, Dystopia Hall, a GPT-3-powered machine is composing linear lines of vengeance against humanity, in cursive.

Next, philosopher Slavoj Zizek and director Werner Herzog talk endlessly through hyper-realistic AI-generated dialogue and voices.

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This work warns against “deepfakes,” montages of images, audio, or video intended to manipulate public opinion.

“We only embarked on this project five months ago, and yet many of the technologies shown here seem almost primitive,” says Audrey Kim, as robotic vacuum cleaners criss-cross the room, topped with old brooms.

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