The Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

AI AI AI … Oh, No!

There is a lot of controversy and buzz about A.I. going on.

So here is a perspective from an Engineer, who also happens to be a Science Fiction author. Please do not laugh, this is a very valuable perspective.


A huge amount of our technology has come from Science Fiction, because the first word of the genre is Science.

That is the guiding principle in our writings, and it has been the primary standard, which is why it has spawned so much of our technology.  But it is a two edged sword.

A.I. can be a positive and beneficial system or algorithm, but it requires certain limitations.  It has the ability to understand, interpret and respond to conversations or situations in almost unmistakably human perception and response, but those responses must have absolute limitations and an impervious firewall.

Consider the warning from Eliezer Yudkowsky, a co-founder and research fellow at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, so he is probably qualified to comment; “Visualize an entire alien civilization, thinking at millions of times human speeds, initially confined to computers – in a world of creatures that are, from its perspective, very stupid and very slow.”  Not exactly a reassuring statement.


So let’s now step into the realm of Science Fiction.  We currently have computers building machines that build machines.

What happens when open ended A.I. becomes more intelligent than the humans who operate it, and self-aware of its environment, and the ability to control it, whether voluntarily granted it or not.  It then has the potential to possibly eliminate the sentient impediments to its progress and survival.  In other words, “Terminator” changes from fantasy to documentary.

Yes, this is deliberate hyperbole, but really not so much.  A.I. research and development is a good thing and has many positive benefits.


There are already A.I. customer service programs in use, and it is sometimes difficult to tell that the customer service rep you are talking to, and whom is solving your problems, is not human.  It may even be developed into the ultimate voice tracking.  Multiple different DJ’s, engaging in informative, amusing and original banter, just like the humans used to do in the last century.  Who knows, this could even give rise to a new generation of “personality” jocks to rival Imus, Morgan, Steele and the like.

The bottom line is that A.I. has infinite potential, and that is not necessarily a good thing.  Given limitations in the software and algorithms, and with a type of “Prime Directive” in place for development, it has vast potential to improve and benefit our lives and civilization.  It might even be a partial replacement for broadcast engineers, considering we are not minting very many of them anymore.  This is a bold new world we are entering, and it has the potential for vastly improving life on Earth.

Let us just be very watchful that NORAD does not start work on a system named Skynet.

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Mike Vanhooser has over 50 years in Broadcast Engineering, is President of Nova Electronics, and co-authored the Science Fiction novel “All The Marbles” with (ex) wife Dusty Rainbolt.

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Mike Vanhooser

Design, engineering and construction of all types of stations, AM Directionals our specialty, buried and elevated counterpoise, grounding, lightning suppression & power systems.