© 2023 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES10-2-23
Artificial Intelligence wrote this column. Is it ethical?
By Peter St. Cyr
For Pete’s Sake
For years, screenplays have featured computers diligently outsmarting their human programmers. What may have seemed like far-fetched science fiction before has become a potential threat today. Advanced computers have beaten world chess champions and in less than five decades, we have witnessed comic strip character Dick Tracy’s futuristic wrist radio become a reality with billions of people relying on their smart phones and watches.
For good or bad, artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere today. Financial analysts even predict it will soon displace millions of workers. So, curious about my own job, I decided to experiment with a free online word generator at Gamma.app. After learning the simple commands, I submitted a request for a 600-word column focused on the ethics of using AI to write an opinion piece.
This is what it produced in less than a minute:
As technology advances at an unprecedented pace, it is becoming easier for AI to produce news articles and opinion pieces. While there are significant advantages to this, there are also ethical concerns that need to be addressed.
One of the biggest advantages of AI-generated pieces is their speed. They can produce articles in seconds. Additionally, they don't suffer from writer's block, fatigue, or other inherent human issues. The downside of text-producing AI is that it may just produce lukewarm, neutral, or banal texts that nobody wants to read, while removing the positive and negative extremes that help us form opinions. Additionally, it is difficult to ensure that the AI was programmed ethically, that it's not spreading false or biased messages, and that it's transparent and accountable.
The introduction of AI in any aspect of life comes with inevitable consequences, both positive and negative. Predicting the impact of AI-generated articles on journalism and media is not a straightforward task, but it is necessary to consider how this may change the way we perceive news and information.
One possible effect is a reduction in the number of journalists and writers needed, leading to a loss of jobs. However, it may also lead to an increase in profits for media companies, as they may be able to publish more content and reach a larger audience.
Although AI can provide speed and efficiency, it is only one part of the equation to writing and publishing opinion pieces. The human element remains a key part of the process, especially when it comes to editorial oversight and quality control.
Human editors have a responsibility to ensure that the opinions expressed align with the values and ethics of their organizations. Editors must also make sure that the articles are unbiased, factual, and informative. They can use AI as a tool to assist them in their work, but the final product should still have human input and oversight.
Some possible solutions to ethical questions raised by AI-generated articles include increased transparency, accountability, regulation, and ethical guidelines for AI-based journalism.
AI should be utilized to make the writing process faster and more efficient, not to replace human writers. We still need humans to express the vulnerabilities and emotions that make articles compelling to read.
For me, this experiment clearly demonstrates that AI may indeed become an integral part of journalism in the future.
Even the program admitted that despite its benefits, “AI needs a human touch to achieve empathetic, engaging, and thought-provoking content. It is human writers who can make pithy comments, include humor, sarcasm, or any of a hundred emotive contexts that are part of any effective article.”
To contact the author email Peter505@outlook.com.
© 2023 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 7-3-23
Limiting cannabis licenses is a bad idea
By Peter St. Cyr
For Pete’s Sake
New Mexico’s budding 14-month-old, adult-use cannabis industry has generated more than $360 million dollars in economic activity and employed thousands of hard-working residents in communities across the state.
On almost every major street in cities across the state cannabis companies, like coffee shops and the once flourishing mom-and-pop video stores from long ago, pop up with owners’ dreams of making a fortune with their golden ticket to serve the cannabis-smoking public.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and regulators who administer the Cannabis Control Division (CCD) say the industry has shown great promise and look forward to even more growth in the years ahead. But some industry players claim the future for many of the 633 dispensaries, who comply with all of CDD’s rules and pay millions in gross receipt and monthly excise taxes, is bleak.
In a letter signed by nearly 100 firms and mailed to the governor and state Regulation and Licensing Superintendent Linda Trujillo the last week of June, the companies propose a temporary halt to the issuance of any new operating licenses. The market, they believe, is oversaturated and faces extreme instability from a “flourishing illicit market.” Without a pause in licensing, the firms warn of employee layoffs and “homegrown” businesses being forced to close their doors.
“Our industry is competing with a long-established illicit market, which is flourishing due to a lack of resources for compliance, enforcement, and established consequences to deter individuals and organizations from participating in illegal cannabis activities,” a portion of the letter reads.
Allowing regulators the authority to limit the number of licenses issued without legislative oversight is a bad idea.
In fact, the original House bill to legalize and regulate adult cannabis (introduced in the 2021 session) included language that would have empowered CDD with licensing cap authority, but lawmakers properly opted in favor of a free market where supply and demand will control both wholesale and retail product prices.
The governor and Superintendent Trujillo have promised to work closely with the industry and identify potential adjustments to the market white it’s still in its infancy, but the Legislature is the proper venue to ensure the industry is properly regulated and safety valves are in place.
Ben Lewinger, executive director of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, who did not sign the letter, agrees it’s an issue for lawmakers to decide.
If a pause in licensing is granted, potential applicants should be given at least a six-month notice to complete their applications, especially for firms that may have signed long-term leases on valuable retail space in prime locations.
Because of federal laws, cannabis companies are unable to file bankruptcy and have no ability to reorganize, so at minimum licenses should be awarded to firms that acquire an existing cannabis company on the verge of failing and laying off its workforce.
Rather than lock down licenses, regulators would be well suited to determine market demand in New Mexico and potentially cap plant production with the goal to have many mom-and-pop shops growing a limited number of plants, rather than a small group of well capitalized firms harvesting a virtually unlimited supply of plants.
Ultimately, the Legislature and the executive branches should look to the judicial branch for guidance on the issue. Recent court orders have determined the government has a ministerial duty to issue these licenses to businesses that meet the application criteria and have not been convicted of certain drug-related felonies.
Contact Peter St. Cyr at about.me/peterstcyr
© 2023 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 6-12-23
Celebrating the best father in the world
By Peter St. Cyr
For Pete’s Sake
This Sunday, like millions of Americans, I will celebrate Father’s Day. I will cherish the memory of my adoptive father’s life and the impact his love had on my well being.
His active engagement in my life positively influenced my social development, helped me achieve academically and steered my moral growth from childhood into adulthood.
I was blessed when my adoptive parents rescued me from a Catholic orphanage for special needs children six months after I was born with a hole in my heart. It was a dangerous physical ailment that had scared away other couples looking to grow their families through adoption.
My father, a military man stationed in Aurora, Colo., wasn’t deterred by doctors’ suggestions that I would require open heart surgery, a costly procedure to repair the inner walls separating the two sides of my heart.
My dad knew when he adopted me the healthcare benefits he earned as a master sergeant in the Air Force would cover the steep surgical costs. A devout Christian, he prayed that his benefits would help save my young life.
After I gained the weight and strength needed for the surgery, cardiologists determined the organic murmur, which affects only one percent of the population, had miraculously healed itself. A lucky break. Even as the hole in my heart closed, my father’s always remained open to me and two siblings.
The Fatherhood Project, a nonprofit fatherhood program seeking to improve the health and well-being of children and families by empowering fathers to be knowledgeable, active and emotionally engaged with their children, has researched the specific impacts of father engagement during different childhood development stages.
The group’s researchers determined that having an authoritative father leads to better emotional, academic, social and behavioral outcomes. In fact, children who feel close to their fathers, like I did, are twice as likely to enter college or find stable employment after high school and are 75% less likely to have a teen birth, 80% less likely to spend time in jail, and half as likely to experience symptoms associated with depression. On the other hand, children whose fathers are absent may suffer lifelong psychological harm.
I know my father’s involvement in my childhood made me a happy, well-adjusted child focused on earning A’s and preparing for college more than dropping out or having to repeat a grade.
My father told me he vowed to be involved in his children’s lives after watching his own father, a top lawyer, drown the sorrows of losing his young wife to cancer in booze. It was embarrassing, my dad recalled, to get frequent calls to come pull his drunk pop out of a bar.
I’m lucky my father put the negative relationship he had with his own father aside and focused on making me a well-rounded, happy person with a sharp mental dexterity.
I still smile when I look through the family photo album and see pictures of my older brother wrestling my father on the living room floor while I half cried out loud, “My turn, my turn!”
A black-and-white photo that captures my dad lifting me into the sky while I lay prone on his hands and feet will always make me smile from cheek to cheek.
This Sunday, when I celebrate the memory of my father, I’m grateful for his involvement in my life. I’m grateful he spent countless mornings reading newspaper columns aloud and asking me to think critically about community issues.
I’m thankful my father inspired me to become a journalist where I’ve spent most of my life writing stories in the public interest.
It’s what I plan to continue to do, in his honor, with this monthly column, For Pete’s Sake.