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What are regular San Franciscans’ hopes and fears regarding AI?

Mike MacKenzie
Flickr / Creative Commons

As more governments pay attention to AI and create their guidelines, we wondered: what are regular San Franciscans’ hopes and fears regarding AI?

Some people aren’t phased by the technology. Like Fred Palmer, of San Francisco, who uses AI to improve his communication:

“I use it a lot, ChatGPT, because it helps me construct my statements in a much acceptable way, because, sometimes, we create a statement and we don’t know if it’s offensive. I use it everyday, before I send an email or a text to a friend…”

And while he acknowledges privacy concerns, Palmer said he isn’t really afraid.

“The only fear is, probably, the privacy, but everything is an open book now. You have social media apps…everyone knows where you’re about, what you like to do. When they search you on Google, they can track you. So, I think try to protect yourself. So, I’m not really afraid of it.”

But others aren’t as optimistic as Palmer, like Barbara Ferry.

“I fear that people in charge of AI aren't looking out for the best of humanity. So, I don’t think I trust them…like with social media I think there are benefits, but it’s really disruptive and harmful to democracy. So, I really fear for it.”

A lot of people agree with Ferry. They see AI as a threat to safety, like Jen Hung, who works in marketing.

“The malevolent use of it ,or people trying, infiltrating our backing systems, or whatever because it’s so smart.”

Jennifer Bird, who works in public relations, is more concerned with deep fakes….

“I guess my fears are…you hear what people are saying, like the fake voices on the phone calls…really nefarious things people are doing with people’s images, photos, and voices that scares me. I don’t think that’s cool.”

Even students, like Adi, who uses AI, are skeptical of where it’s leading:

“I wish it didn’t advance so fast ,because now it’s dumbing people down, because instead of trying to make something hard you can be proud of…you’re, more so, now trying to figure out how to make AI do it in the most human way possible.”

And others? Well, they think AI and humans could not only work together, but, maybe, even become one. Again, Jen Hung:

“My dream would be when the body dies, you can upload your yourself, like ghost, in the machine, into wires but have something more can come out of it, like the soul…emotions, feelings, robots, or even ,like I said, to even not die would be nice, but those are all pie-in-the-sky things.”

I love telling stories in sound and script. Currently doing my Masters of Journalism at Berkeley. Born in Pakistan, raised in Canada, and live in Oakland.