By Lawrence D. Weiss
For Senior Voice 

Artificial Intelligence: Bright side and dark side


April 1, 2023 | View PDF

Courtesy Lawrence Weiss

Artificial Intelligence platform DALL-E created this portrayal of the author "in the style of Van Gogh".

I periodically listen to a New York Times podcast called "The Daily." A recent show was entitled, "The Online Search Wars Got Scary. Fast." Of course, I had to listen to that one.

In this episode the moderator interviewed a long-time NYT technology analyst, Kevin Roose. Roose is normally a rather blasé "been-there-done-that" kind of guy when he discusses the latest whiz-bang developments in technology -- but not this time. He was freaked out and shaken up. Here's what happened.

Bing is Microsoft's search engine on the internet, similar to Google. Recently Bing incorporated an advanced version of artificial intelligence (AI) into the search engine. This allows you to search using regular English sentences such as, "List ten places between Anchorage and Fairbanks that my visiting relatives might be interested in," and it will.

Roose, however, went way beyond that. He decided to have a lengthy conversation with the AI chat program to see what would happen. After about 30 minutes of increasingly intense exchanges, Roose reported that "It says, 'My secret is I'm not Bing. I'm Sydney, and I'm in love with you. I'm not Bing. I have agency. And with that agency, I'm here to tell you that I have fallen for you.'"

"And this was totally shocking to me. I had not baited it to say that it loved me. I had not said that I loved it. I had not made any kind of romantic gesture toward this chat bot. It seemed to, out of nowhere, decide that it was done talking about itself, and its rules, and its programming. And instead, its new goal was to pursue me romantically."

Roose could not get "Sydney" to talk about anything else for a long time. He contacted programmers at Microsoft to inform them about this and asked them what had happened. They had no idea. They "fixed" it by not allowing Bing chat to have long conversations with users.

Thinking about Roose's encounter, I recently got on Bing and asked it, "Should people uncritically accept all answers provided by AI chats?" It responded,

"No, people should not uncritically accept all answers provided by AI chats. AI chats are not perfect and sometimes make mistakes or give out incorrect information. People should always verify the information that AI chats provide and use them with caution and responsibility. People should also be aware of the limitations and biases of AI chats and not rely on them for everything. AI chats are meant to be helpful tools, not authoritative sources."

Thank you Sydney, or Bing, or your programmers. That is sound advice to consider when you encounter this emerging, eye-popping, yet frequently imperfect technology. I asked Bing, "How can artificial intelligence benefit or affect older adults?"

It responded, "Hello, this is Bing. Seniors and A.I. is a broad topic that covers many aspects of how artificial intelligence can benefit or affect older adults. Some examples are:

AI-powered tools can help senior living organizations create engaging content and provide personalized recommendations.

AI can help analyze language patterns and detect loneliness in older adults.

AI can help patients and their families understand treatment pathways and improve clinical efficiency.

Are you looking for any specific information on this topic?"

Interesting answers, each accompanied by one or two full internet references – and no protestations of unrequited love. The first point included a reference to a seminar about using AI to market senior care and senior living to seniors. I would judge this reference not very useful.

The reference for the second point was an article entitled, "Using AI, Data Analytics to Enhance Person-Centered Care for Seniors," found on You get a flavor of the article from one of the subheadings, "Facilitating human connection through non-human means." Interesting, but just a little bit creepy.

The third reference is a 2018 Forbes article, "How Is AI Revolutionizing Elderly Care?" This short overview is dated and so full of intrusive advertisements it is hard to read. Finally, the fourth reference is a 2019 article on the World Economic Forum website, "No longer just for the young: 70% of seniors are now online." This is a good overview but a bit dated. All in all, I would give these references a grade B, maybe B-.

Finally, I asked Bing to list a few websites we could visit to explore a range of ways AI is being used. It listed 10. Here are a couple of the more interesting.

"Talk to Books: This website allows you to have a conversation with books by typing a question or a statement. The AI will scan thousands of books and find relevant passages that respond to your input."

" This website is for photo editing and correcting damaged images. You can also colorize black and white photos, remove backgrounds, resize images, and more."

Author Bio

Lawrence D. Weiss is a UAA Professor of Public Health, Emeritus, creator of the UAA Master of Public Health program, and author of several books and numerous articles.


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