This might be  the first time you’ve heard of it, it won’t be the last.  Be warned, the show is just getting started…

As artificial intelligence (AI) rapidly advances, the public discourse often paints it with a broad brush – either heralding AI as humanity’s savior or warning of its apocalyptic dangers. However, a curious middle ground is emerging, and it demands more attention – the rise of the “AI clowns.”

Through my exploration of AI, from chatbots, automation tools and voice synthesis, I’ve witnessed an entertaining phenomenon (well, at least for me) : For every groundbreaking AI innovation that emerges as a “hero,” a multitude of tomfoolery follows close behind. These are the unintended consequences, misuses, or comical failures that inevitably accompany new AI capabilities.

“Every new AI hero brings forth a circus of clowns.”

I refer to this pattern as the “AI Clown Paradox” – the idea that alongside each AI breakthrough, a circus of clowns is bound to appear. Much like skilled jesters, these AI clowns defy our expectations by subverting, misusing or simply bungling the new technology in amusing, irritating, entertaining  and disturbing ways. Just like real clowns.

A Comical AI Encounter 

Consider my recent experience merging an AI voice-synthesized sales bot  with an anti-spam voice-synthesized bot designed to waste telemarketers’ time. (Thank you Jolly Roger Telephone Company). I connected these two together,  and for nearly 30 minutes, the two bots engaged in an absurd back-and-forth discussion, with the sales bot relentlessly sticking to its script to set up a meeting despite conversational detours into topics like classic rock, teenage angst, math homework, and even Donald Trump.

And you can listen to the conversation right here.

While entertaining, this encounter underscored an important point: Current AI lacks the adaptive intelligence to recognize unproductive interactions and disengage or change strategies accordingly. As AI grows more advanced, building in such situational awareness will be crucial.

And here is the paradox. No matter how well AI adapts and recognizes unproductive interactions and disengages or changes strategies, there will always be a lacking of AI intelligence. Send in the clowns!

The Circus Comes to Town 

As we encounter the diverse cast of characters in AI’s grand circus, we’re invited to reconsider our engagement with technology. AI, in its role as both the competent juggler and the unpredictable trickster, challenges our preconceptions and compels us to adapt our expectations. This redefined engagement isn’t about diminishing AI’s potential but rather about embracing the full spectrum of its impact, from the groundbreaking to the ludicrous.

While the adult in me wants to say that the AI Clown Paradox  serves as a poignant reminder of the overlooked aspects of AI development, such as the ethical dilemmas, environmental considerations, the unknown and nuanced impact on job markets, personal privacy, and so on, and so on…

The child in me would rather be more realistic and say that the paradox is more of a reminder that we should all prepare ourselves, for better or for worse, for a new paradigm in amusement, irritation, entertainment, and being disturbed.

How you react to this brave new world is up to you. As for me, I’m sitting in the grandstand enjoying the clown show.

Sign Up To Receive
The Lab Report

Delivered straight to your inbox.