AI Nannies?

If you’re a parent, you have probably agonized about the impact of devices on your kid. 

It sometimes seems like our kids are spending more time with their electronics than their parents. According to Common Sense Media, half of all children under eight own a tablet device and spend an average of about two and a quarter hours per day on a  digital screen. 8- to 12-year-olds spend an average of almost five and a half hours a day looking at screens on smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, and TVs. Meanwhile, teenagers are spending more than eight and a half hours a day on their devices. 

In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, however, Dr. Dana Suskind, co-director of the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health and the founding director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program at the University of Chicago, suggests that we need to keep an open mind when it comes to the latest high tech innovation for our kids – AI nannies. 

In the not too distant future, Suskind posits, childhood staples such as teddy bears could coo to babies and answer toddlers’ questions, read favorite bedtime stories over and over and over again, sing songs and play games, and even deduce why a baby is crying. 

According to Suskind, this is a good thing: research has shown that rich conversation is vital to a baby’s brain development. In her view, conversing with an AI could stimulate the creation of a wide array of cognitive and emotional connections.

“Why not use AI nannies to engage human babies in the kind of back-and-forth conversation that builds brains?” Suskind writes. “It could have profoundly positive developmental impacts, increasing the frequency and consistency of brain-building moments during the period when children’s brains are most “plastic”— that is, most capable of rewiring themselves based on what they encounter. The technology could be a boon to children who otherwise might experience developmental delays. It could help to unlock cognitive potential and close achievement gaps.”

Suskind acknowledges that there are risks to exposing our kids to so much AI. For example, children and their caregivers sync up when they are trying to communicate or play together, and this neural synchrony greatly accelerates the development of cognitive skills. As far as we know, AIs can’t bond with kids in this way. 

Also, she concedes that this emotional unavailability also makes it hard for AIs to instill the same degree of grit, resiliency, and ambition that children pick up from their parents. 

This reporter wonders what might happen if an AI starts to hallucinate while speaking to a child. He can’t get ChatGPT’s infamous amorous overtures to a New York TImes reporter out of his head. 

Still, Susskind’s conclusion that “we cannot put the AI genie back in its bottle” is probably correct. 

AI nannies are coming, people. Let’s just hope we’re ready. 

SBF Headed to the Hoosgow

Former FTX head Sam Bankman-Fried is spending tonight in jail.

Judge Lewis Kaplan today revoked the former crypto kingpin’s bail for repeatedly testing the court’s patience with his behavior. “He has gone up to the line over and over again, and I am going to revoke bail,” Kaplan said.  

Bankman-Fried’s latest indiscretion was sharing with a New York TImes reporter private correspondence between himself and Caroline Ellison, the former head of Alameda Research whom the government intends to call as a witness in Bankman-Fried’s trial. 

Kaplan said the messages were designed to “portray Ms. Ellison in an unfavorable light” and could possibly constitute a Federal crime. He also agreed with the prosecution’s contention that Bankjman-Fried  “pivoted to in-person machinations” because of court-imposed limitations on his internet and phone use.

According to the judge, Bankman-Fried didn’t send the reporter copies of Ellison’s messages because “It was a way, in his view, of doing this in a manner in which he was least likely to be caught. He was covering his tracks.”

While Bankman-Fried’s lawyers maintained that their client was just using  his First Amendment rights to protect his reputation, Judge Kaplan said that “defendant speech is not protected if it is to bring about a crime.” 

Bankman-Fried’s interview with the Times has been just the latest in a string of run-ins with the court. In January Kaplan tightened Bankman-Fried’s bail restrictions for contacting a former FTX executive who could be a witness in the case and using a virtual private network that concealed his Internet activity. (Bankman-Fried claimed he used the VPN to watch football online.)  

At a July 26th hearing about Bankman-Fried’s interview with The Times,  Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon said Bankman-Fried had conducted 1,000 phone calls with various journalists while under home detention and portrayed the Ellison incident as “an escalation of an ongoing campaign with the press that has now crossed a line.” 

Judge Kaplan apparently agreed. In his ruling, he said that “There is probable cause to believe that the defendant has attempted to tamper with witnesses at least twice.”

Bankman-Fried will be remanded to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, a chronically understaffed facility that Judge Kaplan acknowledged  was  “not on anyone’s list of five-star facilities.”