The hyperbolization of everything

If you read the tech news this weekend, chances are you’ve been worried that, like the Terminator Skynetthe artificial intelligence developed by scientists at Silicon Valley It already has self-awareness and is nowhere near appropriating us, like the machines of the Matrix.

(I confess to having been part of that group.)

However, with a cooler head, and more context, the story did not turn out as it was painted. Indeed, an employee of a digital company, today separated from his position, alerted his hierarchical superiors about something that disturbed him: the language system with which he had to dialogue –routine tests to refine the program and detect its evolution–, he already declared himself conscious. That is, the program understood its existence.

The report was dismissed, and it later turned out with good reason. What the then-employee described was, at best, an exaggeration. At worst, a fabrication –with a lot of editing involved– that distorted reality. The original note was contextualized and denied, but as usual, the false traveled faster than the true.

Far from being the first time it happens. In fact, particularly in the field of science, health, and technologyis quite common: complicated topics, which require study and, above all, nuances, become information bombs that travel the Internet at incredible speed.

How many times have we not read about the miraculous study where experts cured diseases or viruses? How many times have we seen that, now yes, HIV has been cured? Why didn’t those doctors, physiologists, chemists immediately get hold of the Nobel Prize given his contribution to humanity?

For a simple reason. Because his experiments, while advancing our understanding of the world and bringing us closer to a better future, are not magic spells or keys. They are bricks in a much more complex construction. Foundations, even.

An example: a few weeks ago the networks and news sites were filled with a wonderful discovery. “Scientists”, because that is how the notes always begin, had found the cause of one of the most terrible diseases in the world: the syndrome of sudden infant death. Never again would mothers and fathers have to fill themselves with anguish at night. The cause was identified.

It was not so. The group of specialists had found, in a small and preliminary study, results that could point to the cause of the syndrome.

Not only that, subsequent measurements of the results were inconclusive and the study could not be extrapolated, let alone exaggerated as it was done.

Could it be that perhaps we are eager for positive news, or could it be that instead of wanting to understand the complex, we remain superficial. But hyperbole, so fashionable in politics today, is the norm.

How much good something that has been proposed since ancient Greece would do us: reflect before assuming anything, and worse, communicate it as absolute truth. A few more minutes, a little more research, and thus we will misinform less.

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The hyperbolization of everything