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Campus News

February 20th, 2024

Heckman: AI "is here to stay"

Former DOE official discusses recent advances in artificial intelligence

Resistance is futile.

While that phrase is most prominently associated with the Borg collective of the Star Trek universe, Kurt Heckman appropriate it during his Artificial Intelligence in Society presentation Thursday night in the recital hall at the Performing Arts Center at Garrett College.


Mr. Kurt Heckman

"AI is here to stay," said Heckman, a former Department of Energy official whose areas of expertise include the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence.

Heckman said the explosion of AI is tied to the technological advantages necessary to support artificial intelligence.

"Sensors are generating data, the internet is moving data, the Cloud is storing data," said Heckman. "Advanced parallel processing computers are capable of generating AI. Once generated, micro-processing computers can run AI models."

One of the final pieces of the puzzle, according to Heckman, is good, old-fashioned capitalism.

"It's all about market demand," said Heckman. "AI makes money and power."

Heckman, an aerospace engineer, said AI has many advantages over human efforts.

"Our senses are limited, our processing of information can be slow, our capacity to store information can be small," Heckman said. "We can only work so long and can't repeat tasks too much without getting tired, bored, or distracted."

AI, according to Heckman, has none of those drawbacks.

"AI is never thirsty, hungry, tired, grumpy, lonely, offended, or passionate," said Heckman.

Heckman said AI will be able to successfully complete jobs humans shouldn't be doing anymore.

"We'll be able to use AI-driven robots in areas with radioactive contamination to do clean-ups," said Heckman. "AI can assume tasks human might like to offload – but that will significantly impact people currently holding those positions."

Heckman acknowledged that "human jobs will be replaced."

"Autonomous trucking, robotics replacing factory jobs, software written by software... it's all coming," said Heckman.

Heckman said those embracing AI now will have an advantage later.

"Early adopters and people who understand AI will be the ones who are ahead," predicted Heckman.

Moving from Star Trek to Terminator, an audience member asked Heckman whether humans needed to worry about robots becoming self-aware and AI to take over the world.

"Theoretically, that could happen," said Heckman, noting that's not at the top of his list of concerns.

"What we need to worry about is AI in the hands of bad people, not the computers becoming self-aware," said Heckman.