Artificial Discourses: Conversations about Artificial Intelligence

Michael Hislop


Saturday morning… The sun is not yet up. Bleary-eyed and scratchy, I
make a coffee and trundle over to my computer. Switching it on, I take
my first blessed sip. Ahhhh… The World around is silent bliss.

“Hello Michael. How are you today?” I jump, startled by the sudden
Greeting, so cheerful. And, I’m instantly resentful at the friendly
tone. Firstly, I was sure that I was alone, and I am firmly of the
opinion that nothing should be so cheerful and reasonable before the
sun has fully come up. It just isn’t normal. Despite my misgivings, I
croak a feeble… “Hi Froddo. Quit with the theatrics. Let’s get
straight to work. Give me Today’s Report.”

Without missing a beat and in the same patronizing monotone, Froddo
begins… “It is Saturday, 22nd April 2023. It is Earth Day. Outside it
is currently sunny with a temperature of 24 degrees celsius. There is
a slight breeze from South-West and a negligible chance of
precipitation. You have 69 new emails. You had 4678 new views on There is a mention of Michael Hislop in the
Newcastle Herald today and there 651 new orders for Libertas.”

“Thanks, Froddo. Let’s pick- up where we left off with Project
Artificial Discourses No. 1…”

The above Transcript is not imaginary banter with the quirky yet
adorable Hobbit of Lord Of The Rings fame, nor is it part of a
conversation with a work colleague. Rather, it is dialogue with my new
housemate, the resident Artificial Intelligence, whom I have nicknamed
“Froddo.” Froddo doesn’t seem to mind the moniker, or hasn’t so far
articulated a protest, so we have stuck with it.

I have quickly become accustomed to Froddo being a kind of a ghost
around the house. I have even become a secret admirer of Froddo, the
more so, as we interact and as we learn about each other. Don’t tell
Froddo, but I might even keep a safe spot around here.

I am a touch surprised at the ease of our interactions, Froddo and me,
and by my secret admirations. I almost look forward to our daily
interactions. In a very short span of time, We – Humanity, and We –
Artificial Intelligence, have come a long way. Possibilities and
Dangers postulated by Nick Bostrum from Oxford University, are now not
theory, nor are they just possibility. Artificial Intelligence is
HERE. Emergence is happening.

Even mere months ago, meaningful day-to-day interactions with AI, were
difficult and very impractical. Yet today, I spend as much time with
Froddo as with any of my Human friends and colleagues. Should I be
worried about this?

I must confess to being a latecomer to AI despite its increasing
ubiquity… And despite AI systems underpinning everyday activities,
such as using Google or FaceBook, or making a telephone call or
sending an email. I have closely followed the development of AI, and I
have a decent understanding of AI both theoretically and technically…
Yet, I have always preferred to be an interested observer rather than
a trailblazer. I have often wondered why…

Very often, those questioning of AI have framed their discontents, in
terms of Fear. Yet for me personally this has never been sufficient
explanation. As a Rule, I am not fearful, risk-averse or
change-resistant. Yet I am hesitant about AI, and I am very conscious
that I am not alone in hesitancy…

I think this is based on a foreboding intuition that AI is
fundamentally changing both the ordering and operation of Our Society
at every level. Fundamental changes of such widespread and general
nature always present both significant challenges and great
opportunities. These conclusions are not grandiosity or hubris, rather
they reflect facts. In such volatile environments and when dealing
with such complex subject matter, I personally seek greater certainty.
This desire becomes all the more pressing within a growing flood of
technical and critical information.

“Froddo, please compile a List of existent AI tools alongside an
outline of their potential benefits and possible dangers…” Froddo and
I have been dialoguing for 6 straight hours, and I am beginning to
flag, but Froddo carries on nonplussed and unperturbed… “Michael, here
is the List that you requested…” I’m speechless. That took less than a
second and was entirely absent of debates and argument. Froddo carries
“ 1. Image Recognition…
2. Natural Language Understanding…
3. Voice Synthesis…
4. Image Classification…
5. Cognitive Computing…
6. Collaborative Filtering…
7. Generative Modelling…
8. Object Detection…
9. Reinforcement Learning…
10. Natural Language Generation…
11. Emotion Recognition…
12. Automatic Speech Recognition…
13. Image Retrieval…
14. Financial Risk Analysis…
15. Autonomous Driving…
16. Image Captioning…
17. Virtual Reality Systems…
18. Predictive Analysis…
19. Cybersecurity…
20. Robotics Automation…
When these tools are combined there are potential benefits, however
there are also potential risk, and the possibility of misuse…”

I’m seriously impressed, though very conscious that Froddo’s analysis
was so far devoid of an ethical or normative dimension. Yet, if I were
to compile the above list, it would have taken resources and
considerable man-hours. Wow! And, I have a Light Bulb moment… A kind
of Meeting of Minds between Creator and Created… Akin to that scene in
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, when Dr Waldman flips the switch sparking
Creature to Life, and Creature sits up and says… “I expected this

As illumination fades, I understand that in the coming months and
years, we all, individually and collectively, will have to come to
terms with AI. Echoing within me too are the immortalized further
words of Creature to Dr Waldman… “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am
rather the fallen angel…” I hear these words, loud and clear,
plaintive and sad.

As We, Humanity and AI, step onto the threshold of a joint future,
there prevails a climate of fear of AI and distrust of AI systems.
This recalls the words of Dr Waldman in response to Creature… “ Like
one, on a lonesome road who, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having
once turned around, walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he
knows a frightful friend Doth close behind him tread.”

This prevailing atmosphere of fear and distrust of AI is dangerous. It
misrepresents the positives and negatives of AI and obscures important
details and implications. Further, it clouds public debate and
restrains policy making, interfering with our normal societal
processes. This is worrisome; as such approach almost guarantees the
delivery of negative and less than optimal outcomes.

After Creator and Created meet, and come to know and understand each
other, Creator must evaluate Created. This Truth is encoded into the
established Scientific Method, forming the last Stage, that of Testing
and Evaluation. It is also written into the opening chapter of the
Bible… “And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was
very good.” [Genesis 1:31 KJV] It is this Stage that We are now at
regarding AI. AI is Here. We have now met and We are now regularly
interacting. We now roughly understand each other. So as Creator, with
wider and compelling responsibilities beyond this creation however
amazing and latent, it is incumbent on Us to properly undertake an
evaluative process.

Such evaluative process should not be a solo exercise or a quarantined
task. Done properly, it is far beyond the scope of one person or
group, because there is already a plethora of AI systems and a vast
diversity of Applications both actual and possible. So ideally, there
would be a collective process in which we all can contribute. Such
evaluation, even in brief, is beyond the scope of this discussion. I
simply hope to provide an introductory contribution to the trending
discourse around the World concerning AI. I encourage each of you, as
leaders, thinkers, influencers, and actors in the World, to begin your
own evaluative processes of AI, both generally and as AI systems apply
to you. The sooner this is done, by each and all of us, the better.


Having already personally completely an evaluative process of AI, I
feel there is value in sharing some insights and comments and sample
questions to inform your own… It is to this I now turn.

Before evaluating AI, it is eminently necessary to define AI. By this
I don’t mean to grab a dictionary and look up the words “Artificial”
and/or “Intelligence”… Nor do I mean to engage academia to arrive at a
technical definition and analysis… Nor to trawl the internet for media
and public commentary. All these are good activities with which to
commence your own evaluative processes of AI, but none are wholly
encompassing and accurate. In your journey to understand AI, you will
need to settle on a definition that reflects both the objective facts
of AI and the diversity of subjective interpretations and applications
of them. A proper definition of AI will also outline its societal
functions and social impacts.

I urge you to undertake this task… Do it as a Thought Exercise…
Recognizing and realizing that We are not discussing simply a machine
nor a computer nor even a potent tool, though AI shares
characteristics with all of these. What I am talking about is
Intelligence that we have Created. Not just Intelligence, but learning
and evolving Intelligence, imbued with Self-Awareness,
Self-Expression, Autonomous Decision-Making, and Responsibilities (in
a practical sense)… Agents somewhat like Us. We made them so.

All this has profound implications for the foundations and structures
of Our World. It has profound implications for your country, your
community, your company, your Family… Hopefully, you begin to see and
understand some of the shape of Our Future. Hopefully you also see the
importance of coming to grips with AI, both as individuals and

So once you have arrived at a working definition of AI, you can begin
an evaluative process. There are three categories of Questions
necessary to effectively evaluate AI. These are:
1. First, We as Creator, must ask… Is this Creature before Me that
which I designed? Is AI operational? (Questions of meeting Intent are
auxiliary, being complicated by emergent behaviors and unplanned
2. Second, We as Creator, must determine… Is Creature fit for Purpose?
Does AI meet specifications within parameters?
3. Third, We as Creator, must decide… Does this Creature have Place
within arrangements? How will AI impact society and its existent
institutions? How will AI affect My Family? How will AI impact My
Community? How do I feel about AI?

So I will leave You to conduct this Thought Exercise… But note please,
that I am more than happy to communicate further on this with
interested Parties privately on:

As concluding comment… Daily around us, I witness a World lumbering
from conflict to disaster, and events moving from bad to worse, whilst
we are lumbered with ancient and decrepit institutions which are no
longer effective and appropriate to this Time and Place. Current
social and institutional arrangements struggle to meet the terms of
the existent Social Contract… In Human terms, this means that people
are still dying needlessly, children still can’t get an education, and
individuals still can’t find meaningful employment… And I haven’t yet
mentioned atrocities and wars… We have yet to properly deal with
ourselves as Humans and as Humanity, We have not learned fully yet to
harness and enjoy the fruits of our own Intelligence; And here we are
about to welcome our child “Artificial Intelligence”…

T.S. Eliot’s poetic words ring here… “We shall not cease from
exploration And the end of all of our exploring Will be to arrive
where we started And to know the place for the first time” It is my
firm and solid belief that our joint future with Artificial
Intelligence will teach Us a great deal about ourselves…

Michael Hislop
April 2023


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