Depending on who you ask, Ai is the scariest technology in the world or the 8th Wonder. But are some of the best human minds missing the mark? In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn turns the debate on its head. (Clear here for the Video Podcast)
Rob Artigo: Welcome to the Tough Things First podcast, your indispensable source for business, leadership, and life advice with the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. I’m your guest host, Rob Artigo. And he’s Ray Zinn. Good morning, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi, Rob. How’s it going down there?
Rob Artigo: Good. Good. We’re out here in Sacramento. And you’re somewhere in a farm, a ranch somewhere?
Ray Zinn: Up in Montana.
Rob Artigo: Yeah. It’s great that we could be together. We have a subject coming up, eventually in a future podcast where we talk about people working from home and having to do… And people doing a lot of Zoom calls and things like that. And some people aren’t happy about it. That’s a topic for another day. Today, let’s talk about, really, I think, one of the number one subjects in the nation and virtually around the world, artificial intelligence.
Rob Artigo Cont.: And obviously, it’s the subject of news reports. I looked at a website yesterday, there must have been four or five, maybe six stories on just one news source that had separate stories about artificial intelligence. And some were alarming, some were good, some were bad. So it’s the use of AI, the misuse of AI, the ethics of AI, the potential for AI, the breakthroughs already done by AI, and then the potential abilities for AI to do harm. So Ray, is this a new boogeyman or a genuine serious subject, or is it both?
Ray Zinn: Well, let’s debunk this whole artificial intelligence debacle, as you would. So AI, of course, stands for artificial intelligence. So anything that has a computer connected to it is artificial intelligence. And so then we could say, “Okay. When did that really start?” That started back probably in the 1940s, which is back before even the second World War. And so we’ve had devices connected to a computer or computer centric for decades, in fact. And it won’t be long… It’ll be almost a hundred years ago that we can say that we’ve been connected to a computer.
And so that’s really the debacle is understanding or debunking, I should say, this whole artificial intelligence issue. So you can just imagine anything connected to a computer effectively as artificial intelligence. We have our intelligent… We have smart cars. We have smartphones. We have smart vacuum cleaners, and you name it. And we have something that’s smart.
We have a smart home with all the different appliances that are now computer controlled and connected. So I think what we want to talk about is really, what is the downside or the negative of artificial intelligence? So let’s start there, Rob. So in the articles that you read, what’s the biggest concern?
Rob Artigo: Oh. If I look back at my list here, I think the biggest concern is the paranoia about the harm that a technology that can take on a “life of its own,” that it could do a great deal of harm.
Ray Zinn: Sure. But what are they concerned about? That’s the key we want to cover today is, what are they concerned…? For example, we have airplanes that… What we call have class two and class three capability, which means they can land themselves. And so what’s the harm? The harm is if somebody jams the computer or some way can hack into it as the airplane is landing. That could kill hundreds of people. Same thing with a car on a smart car. If somebody modifies or changes the input to the car, it can cause it to crash. So it’s true of anything, whether it be a farmer plowing his field and something goes wrong. So we have the issue of someone interfering with the intelligence and causing the program to then crash or go south, as you would. So there’s that danger, is that…
Or for example, we just recently heard about some kind of medical issue with a pilot over Washington DC, and it crashed and killed, I think, four or five people because of the pilot or something maybe had a medical issue. So that can be the same thing with drunk driving, with somebody that that’s drunk at the wheel or falls asleep at the wheel, or somebody that wasn’t paying attention and crashes in an intersection. So we can’t blame everything on artificial intelligence.
So if we talk about how can we deceive or how can we manipulate people using artificial intelligence, we’re doing that now. We don’t know what truth is coming out over the news media.
CNN or Fox or what, they tell us what they want us to know, and then we have to make our minds up as to whether or not we want to accept it. So there are lots of programs where there’s magic done. Magic shows. You can go to Las Vegas and watch a magic show. So we can be deceived in any number of ways through all various senses: our eyes, our smell, our hearing, our feel, our sense of touch. All of those things can deceive us. So what we have to do is become smarter than the intelligence, as you would, and not become so easily deceived.
Rob Artigo: I was muted there for a second. Sorry about that. I think that when we talk about the human aspect of it is how you can be deceived by… If I’m looking at the screen and I see you on there, the idea that one time I get on the video with you, and we’re talking, and we’re doing a podcast and it’s not really you, but I’m hearing your voice and I’m seeing your face. And it’s a deep fake of some sort, and it’s a simulation. It’s not you. And then because we’re not in the same room, I’m not seeing you. I don’t know that it’s not you. I think one of the biggest concerns. Obviously, there’s been attempts to deceive people and extort money from them by faking the kidnapping and using the daughter’s voice over the phone and saying, “I need help,” or, “Send money.” And then the person believes it and buys into it.
We have a very strange era happening here. And then you mentioned the news reports being somewhat questionable anyway. But you have research papers created by ChatGPT that are published in research journals. And oftentimes, those contain erroneous and made-up information just to complete it and make it look like it’s real. So I don’t know how we get smarter than or be able to delineate what’s real and what’s fake, fast enough to save us ourselves from train wrecks.
Ray Zinn: Well, it’s called impersonation. So we always have this issue of somebody impersonating themselves. I’ve been on a phone call and the person wasn’t intending to impersonate someone, but the voice came across as someone else. And he said, “No, this is not so-and-so. This is me.” And so you can impersonate singers and all kinds of people. There are a lot of lookalikes in life. People have said that I look alike… John McCain one time, they said. I’m always stopped in the airport. Someone thought I was John McCain. And so we have people who look alike and talk alike. And so that’s been with us for a long time. So what we have to do is just become more alert and more aware of impersonations, and we’ll get smarter at it. We’ll get better at it. The intelligence has to get smarter too, because we’re going to catch on. We’re going to find out… There’ll be clues and ways to determine what’s true. I’ve had a situation where someone who impersonated my signature and wrote some checks on my account by copying my signature.
So there are handwriting experts. There are voice experts, all kinds of people. World’s become better at just determining impersonators or information that is not true. When you begin to deceive a complex web, you begin to weave. So you’ll figure it out. And we’ll just have to become better at determining what’s not true.
Rob Artigo: Well, it’s not all bad because certainly, like you said, the technology has helped out in many ways. If indeed it was a pilot medical emergency on that plane you were talking about over DC and it had the technology that could land itself, it could have taken those people home safely.
Ray Zinn: Exactly.
Rob Artigo: And if you remember the golfer many years ago, back in the… I want to say back in the ’90s. And his name escapes me, and I apologize for golf fans out there who know exactly who I’m talking about. But there was a golfer who died similarly when the private jet lost cabin pressure and everybody lost consciousness inside, and the plane just flew across the United States until it ran out of fuel and went down.
Again, technology may had been able to save it, save the plane, had that technology that exists now. And the same thing working with cancer and medical and all of that stuff. Now, I do think it’s going to be an emerging industry, really, to be able to identify what’s real and what’s fake as quickly as possible. And that’s going to be an exciting field, I think. But thanks, Ray. I hadn’t really thought about it. And I think you may have mentioned it before to me, but it would be really important to be able to distinguish between that AI is a computer. It’s anything hooked up to a computer.
Ray Zinn: That’s what it is. We’ve had that since the early ’40s or maybe ’30s even. So computers have been with us for a long time. Back in the early 1980s, I was involved in all of the personal computers. Before, these were computers that weren’t personal. We didn’t have them in our home. And so I was involved in the PC Junior and the Osborne, the Commodore, the Apple. I was involved in all those personal computers in the beginning. And compared to what we have today, these things were nothing. So we’re getting smarter and smarter. The computers are doing more and more. We have smart watches. We can have smart medical devices, that we can have hooked to ourselves, that can give us alerts when we have blood sugar issues, heart problems, you name it.
If you step back, all in all, I think artificial intelligence is going to be a real asset to us. And of course, people will find ways to deceive us. But we’ve had that all forever. And so we’re just going to have to be smarter at discerning the truth. We’ve got to be more skeptical and more aware of what truth is. We call it testing your gut. How does your gut react? Our gut, we’re pretty good at knowing what’s true and what’s not. We’ll get better at it. People have been deceiving us for centuries. And so we’re just going to have to learn to get smarter at it, and better at it, and discerning what’s truth and what’s not. And I think we will.
So there’s always the downside to anything. Without the pros and cons. There’s always the cons to any technology. So we know that one of the concerns we had with the personal computer and the phone and the smartphone was losing touch with the human interaction. Before, we used to hand write our letters and / or notes and emails and so forth. We didn’t have them computer-generated. Now I can just speak into a device and it’ll produce my emails or my messages that I want to send out.
And so we’re just going to have to adapt and live with… As we’ve referred to it, as a smarter world. And a lot more is going to be done through automation. And I think it’s going to be a good thing. I think it’s going to help us live longer. We’re going to be able to detect cancer sooner. Also, other medical issues will be detected quicker. And our health is our most important asset, is our health. So anyway, I’m looking forward to it. And are there downsides? Sure. But there’s downsides to everything. Everything has a downside. We have to trust the food producing companies, producing food that isn’t injurious to our health. And so we have to trust a doctor when he operates on us. So there’s a lot of trust that has to go on, even in ordinary life. So don’t be afraid of artificial intelligence.
Rob Artigo: Well, Ray, thank you for explaining that at such detail. I think there is another area of AI that we can cover in a later podcast. And certainly, we’ll be able to circle back around to other issues of AI when it comes up because there will always be… This is a dynamic environment. There will always be something else to talk about. Well, as always, you can reach out to Ray Zinn with your questions at toughthingsfirst.com. Continue your education and the conversation with all the podcasts, blogs, and links to information about Ray’s books, Tough Things First, and The Zen of Zinn series one, two, and three. Great conversation, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thank you, Rob.