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AI and Alchemy: Unmasking the Mystique of Artificial Intelligence

The comparison of AI to alchemy raises questions about the scientific rigor of today's AI research. Machine ethicist, Thomas Krendl Gilbert, argues that AI's perceived "magic" and lack of transparency parallel the mysteries of alchemy.

As the realm of artificial intelligence continues to evolve, a fascinating comparison emerges: AI as the modern-day equivalent of alchemy. Machine ethicist, Thomas Krendl Gilbert, suggests that the mystical aura surrounding AI parallels the mysteries of alchemy. Examining the implications of this analogy in the context of science, politics, and accountability, we unravel the enigma of AI as alchemy.

Gilbert posits that AI, like alchemy, lacks the scientific rigor associated with well-established disciplines. Critics argue that much of today's AI research is not truly scientific, as it often lacks experimental foundations.

The comparison goes beyond metaphorical usage. Gilbert highlights that many AI practitioners genuinely perceive their work as magical, drawing parallels with alchemists who believed in the mystical transformation of elements.

One prevailing notion in AI is the belief that intelligence is scalar, primarily dependent on data volume and computational limits. This assumption is akin to the mystical claims made in alchemy.

Gilbert distinguishes between the AI model and its interface, emphasizing that the magic of generative AI lies in how the model interacts with users. Interfaces like ChatGPT create the illusion of interacting with a machine, adding to the perceived magic.

In the field of AI, mechanisms underlying model behavior remain poorly understood. Despite this, AI is often described in anthropomorphic terms, further enhancing its mystique.

The convergence of AI and politics raises significant challenges. Gilbert points out that AI builders operate in relative secrecy, leaving policymakers and elected representatives with limited insight into the technology's inner workings.

While claims of existential AI risks may lack rigorous scientific backing, Gilbert suggests they merit scientific investigation. However, framing them as political priorities poses distinct challenges.

Open source initiatives, led by companies like Meta Platforms, provide greater transparency into AI development. They offer a clearer view of technology's inner workings, aiding researchers, technologists, policymakers, and customers.

Translating complex AI research into accessible language for lawmakers and the general public remains a challenge. Despite strides in transparency, there's a need for better communication.

Gilbert concludes that the current state of AI, characterized by mystical elements and limited accountability, can be seen as tragic. Lack of accountability hampers both political decision-making and scientific progress.

To bridge the gap between AI's magical aura and its impact on society, Gilbert calls for greater transparency, public rigor, and accountability, ensuring that AI evolves as a force for good in both politics and science.

The comparison between AI and alchemy uncovers thought-provoking parallels and challenges. As AI continues to influence science, politics, and society, the need for transparency, scientific investigation, and responsible AI development becomes increasingly paramount. The journey from AI as alchemy to AI as accountable science is one that holds the promise of shaping a more enlightened future.

As AI's enigmatic journey unfolds, understanding its complexities and implications becomes essential for informed decision-making and responsible AI advancement.