AI expert doubtful DC prepared for new tech: ‘Well, they put Kamala Harris in charge’
An expert and entrepreneur in the field of artificial intelligence warned that while the new technology has the potential for massive benefits, it could also prove ‘too powerful and too disruptive’ for humanity, expressing doubt about the federal government’s ability to address such a challenge.
Kevin Baragona worked as a software engineer but recognized the potential impact of AI, which led him to start DeepAI in 2016 to help bring the new technology to fruition. The free online service is growing rapidly, with users increasing tenfold over the past year.
DeepAI was the first company to offer an online AI text-to-image generator, which allows users to enter a description of the image they would like to create, select a theme and receive a custom image for download.
The platform also provides several other services, such as an AI chatbot, image editor, and other AI-generated content. Baragona has said his goal is to simplify access to AI technology for the broader population and make AI accessible even to those who don’t have computers. DeepAI hosts an extensive collection of research papers and an AI Glossary meant to explain AI to users of all levels of experience.
‘DeepAI enhances people’s creativity,’ Baragona told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview. ‘AI gives humans a creativity boost. Beyond that, we can use it to create joy in people’s minds, such as with our image generator.’
Baragona described a vision of AI enhancing human activity rather than overtaking it, with advanced technology serving as a boost or supplement. Such a role, he explained, would be the ideal scenario for AI’s future. However, Baragona was quick to add that people are right to be concerned.
‘On one hand, AI is amazing technology like the smartphone or the internet that can make us richer, more creative, more powerful,’ said Baragona. ‘On the other hand, AI may be too powerful and too disruptive. Now we’re at a point where AI is as good as humans in a whole bunch of areas, or at least rapidly approaching it.’
Baragona explained that virtually every area of work — from journalism, to the law, to fine art — is being affected by the rise of AI, all at the exact same time, outlining three major risks that could have profound implications on society: massive societal disruption, potential large-scale job losses, and the prospect of creating computers smarter than humans.
A specific example he cited is being unable to trust what one sees online due to AI, which could be weaponized to manipulate information and advance a particular ideology.
‘Typically AI reflects the values of those who created it,’ said Baragona. ‘ChatGPT is famously quite left-leaning.’
‘I describe myself as a little bit conflicted,’ he added. ‘I love AI as technology, what it can do for people. But we can’t ignore the possible downsides. In many ways, it seems like Pandora’s Box has been opened.’
Baragona said regulation could play a part in mitigating risk but didn’t express optimism in the ability of policymakers to meet the challenge. When asked whether he had confidence in Washington addressing the issues raised by AI, he responded, ‘Well, they put Kamala Harris in charge, so not really.’
The White House early last month named Vice President Harris as ‘AI czar’ to lead the Biden administration’s new initiative ‘to promote responsible AI innovation that protects Americans’ rights and safety.’
Harris’ appointment has been met by widespread skepticism, with numerous voices questioning her ability to handle the role of AI czar. Twitter owner Elon Musk recently mocked the appointment, tweeting: ‘Maybe someone who can fix their own WiFi router wouldn’t be too much to ask.’
Harris has been similarly criticized for her role as ‘border czar’ in the administration due to the ongoing crisis of mass illegal crossings at the southern border from Mexico into the U.S.
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.
Despite his skepticism about Harris, however, Baragona argued that no one — including AI experts — has really any idea what’s coming.
‘It’s a tidal wave even for insiders,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t say that insiders are any better prepared. We’re all in the same boat together.’
DeepAi is continuing to build its service, working on ‘better and better’ versions of what it already has and also developing video games that utilize AI technology, according to Baragona.
Ultimately, he argued, people need to take responsibility to educate themselves about AI to be prepared for the future.
‘The message I want people to hear is they need to educate themselves about what AI can do already and what AI can do in the future so that we can have a hope of adapting to this technology successfully,’ said Baragona. ‘We can be rapidly entering a sci-fi future, more sci-fi than we might have expected, and need to be ready.’