What Do You Do With Your New AI Superpowers?

What Do You Do With Your New AI Superpowers?
"Learning to Fly", created by Marcel Gagné, using Stable Diffusion

This morning, I was thinking about how we (or some of us) are always talking about how cool it would be to have superpowers. I've played that game with my kids and, to be honest, with other adults, or people that society would consider adults, anyhow. To be 100% completely honest, I may have played that game as early as this morning.

Would you choose to be able to fly, like Iron Man, aka Tony Stark, or Supergirl, aka Kara Zor-El, aka Kara Danvers? Maybe super strength is more your thing, as with the Hulk, aka Bruce Banner, or Supergirl's cousin, Superman, aka Kal-El, aka Clark Kent.  How about super speed, like the Flash, aka Barry Allen, has, or Quicksilver, aka Pietro Django Maximoff? Would you rather be a shapeshifter, like Mystique, aka Raven Darkhölme, or Teen Titan's Beast Boy, aka Garfield Mark Logan.

Many of us have played these games, but we're usually talking about things like flying and X-ray vision, but there are also mental or cognitive superpowers. Think about Professor X, leader of the X-Men, whose real name in the Marvel universe is Charles Xavier. This guy's mental abilities are so powerful, that he can read minds, control others' thoughts, and communicate telepathically.  Or, consider Brainiac 5, aka Querl Dox, a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes in the DC Universe, with a 12th-level intellect (whatever that means). Brainiac is basically Star Trek's Data on steroids.

Imagine what you could do if you had twice the intelligence, or ten times the intelligence that you do now. Imagine having a 12th level intellect! Well, now, quite suddenly, many of us have intellectual superpowers courtesy of generative AI.

All this has made me think that even if you did have superpowers, like flight or the ability to teleport, you'd need time to adapt to those powers, time to understand their limits, and time to figure out how to use them. You don't suddenly find yourself with the power of flight and go buzzing around the world at full speed. Going really, really fast comes with its own set of problems.

So it is with generative AI. Okay, so now I can do all these marvelous things... let's start with writing stories about elves trying to build a house using modern construction techniques. Okay, I can create amazing art in seconds... let's start by creating a realistic digital painting of Adam Sandler as the Joker, raking thousands of anti-clown pamphlets littering his yard, at sunset, in the style of Michaelangelo.

What other useful or consequential things could we be doing? As usual, we are limited by our imagination. Whether that weakness comes from too little imagination or being able to imagine far too many things and not yet having the power to triage all those ideas, is up for debate.

But let's go back to the superhero and superpower analogy for a moment. If you've watched, or read, enough superhero origin stories, you'll know that even after your nascent powers appear, you don't just suddenly don a cape and go off performing your miraculous deeds. You spend time learning how to use your power, and that can take a long time. Sometimes, it takes weeks, months, and even years.

When it comes to superheroes learning to master their powers, the journey is often as important as the destination. Take Spider-Man, for example, the first superhero to really capture my imagination and still one of my favourites. When Peter Parker first acquired his powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider, he didn't instantly become the web-slinging, crime-fighting hero we know today. Instead, he stumbled through a series of trial-and-error experiences, trying to understand the extent of his newfound abilities.

Sure, his first thought was to use his power to make some quick cash as a masked fighter, and it wasn't until tragedy struck with the loss of his Uncle Ben that he truly understood the weight of his powers and the responsibility that came with them, but he learned. He didn't suddenly say, "Superpowers are bad. I'm done using them."

Over in the DC Universe, Green Lantern is another superhero who had to learn the ropes before becoming a true Guardian of the Universe (n0t t0 be c0nfused with the Guardians of the Galaxy). When Hal Jordan received the power ring from a dying alien, he was bestowed with the ability to create anything he could imagine using the ring's energy. However, mastering the ring required not only understanding its capabilities but also tapping into his own willpower and creativity, not to mention a hell of a lot of training with the Green Lantern Corps.

And yes, I know that Alan Scott was the first Green Lantern, but who remembers that? I digress...

Even Clark Kent had to spend years with the holographic version of his father, Jor-El, in order to learn to use his powers. Come on, people, these things take time.

The point I'm trying to make is that even the most powerful superheroes must embark on a journey of self-discovery, learning, and growth to master their abilities. Not only that, but they also have a responsibility to use those abilities, not just put them aside because hypothetical bad things might happen. When it comes to generative AI and our newfound intellectual superpowers, we also have to be patient, dedicated, and willing to learn. It's through this journey that we will not only develop our skills but also unlock the true potential of the superpowers we now possess.

There are those who argue that we should halt the development of AI, fearing the unknown and the potential risks it poses. But halting progress is not the solution. Just as our superheroes have shown us, the key to responsibly wielding our powers lies in understanding and mastering them.

This is not the end of the world, or the end of humanity, but a new beginning. The dawn of AI presents a unique opportunity to reshape our society, tackle pressing issues, and unlock possibilities that once seemed out of reach. The potential benefits of AI far outweigh the risks, and it is our responsibility to ensure that we make the most of this gift.

Let's embrace our newfound intellectual superpowers, and sure, make a few strange images along the way, but let's embark on the journey to mastery, and use AI to improve the world around us. It's time for us to become the heroes of our own story, using the incredible potential of AI to write a brighter, more optimistic future for all. And yes, let's do what we can to make sure that AI is used responsibly, as a force for good.

As Peter Parker came to understand, "with great power comes great responsibility." But harken to my words, true believers, responsibility doesn't mean shying away from the superpowers we now possess; rather, it means embracing them, understanding their potential, and using them to make the world a better place.

Sic itur ad astra!

Please, take some time to leave a comment. If you are enjoying my work, please share it with others and encourage them to subscribe. If you aren't a subscriber, click the subscribe button. Seriously. Do it now! If you'd like to chat with others about what you see here, or anything else for that matter, join the FreeThinkerAtLarge Discord server. It's free and it's fun!