How artificial intelligence can turn the world upside down is more than electricity or the internet

Observers say the rise of artificial general intelligence — now seen as an inevitability in Silicon Valley — will bring about change of “significant magnitudes” greater than anything the world has seen so far. But are we ready?

General AI—defined as AI with human cognitive capabilities, as opposed to narrow AI, such as the headline-grabbing ChatGPT—can free people from menial tasks and open up a new era of creativity.

But experts warn that such a historic paradigm shift could threaten jobs and raise insurmountable social issues.

Past technological developments from electricity to the Internet have sparked powerful social change, says Seki Chen, CEO of San Francisco startup Runway.

“But what we are looking at now is intelligence itself… This is the first time that we are able to create intelligence itself and increase its size in the universe,” he told AFP.

As a result, the change will be “orders of magnitude greater than any other technological change we have experienced in history”.

Such a dramatic and frightening shift is a “double-edged sword,” Chen said, imagining using AI to tackle climate change, for example, but also cautioning that it’s a tool we want to be “as directable as possible.”

It was the release of ChatGPT late last year that brought an idea long dreamed of by AGI one giant leap closer to reality.

OpenAI, the company behind the generative software that produces articles, poems, and computing code on demand, this week released a more powerful version of the technology that powers it — GPT-4.

She says the technology will not only be able to process text but also images and produce more complex content such as legal complaints or video games.

As such, the company said it “displays human-level performance” in some benchmarks.

– Farewell to drudgery –

The success of OpenAI, backed by Microsoft, has sparked an arms race of sorts in Silicon Valley as tech giants seek to push their generative AI tools to the next level — though they remain wary of chatbots derailing.

Already, AI-powered digital assistants from Microsoft and Google can sum up meetings, draft emails, build websites, craft advertising campaigns and more — giving us a glimpse of what AGI will be capable of in the future.

“We spend a lot of time toil,” said Jared Spataro, vice president of Microsoft.

Spataro wants, using artificial intelligence, to “rediscover the soul of business,” he said during a Microsoft presentation on Thursday.

Some suggest that AI can also reduce costs.

British landscape architect Joe Perkins tweeted that he used GPT-4 for a coding project, which a “very good” developer told him would cost £5,000 ($6,000) and take two weeks.

“GPT-4 did the same thing in 3 hours, for $0.11,” he wrote on Twitter. “Really mind-boggling.”

But this raises the question of the threat to human jobs, with entrepreneur Chen acknowledging that technology could one day build a startup like himself — or even a better version.

“How am I going to make a living and not be homeless?” he asked, adding that he was counting on solutions to appear.

– Existential questions –

Ubiquitous AI also puts a question mark over creative originality as songs, photos, art, and more are created by software rather than people.

Will humans avoid education, relying instead on software to do the thinking for them?

And who can be trusted to make AI unbiased, accurate, and adaptable to different countries and cultures?

Sharon Zhou, co-founder of Generative AI, says AI “may be coming to us faster than we can process it.”

She told AFP that technology raises an existential question for humanity.

“If something is stronger and smarter than us, what does that mean for us?” Zhou asked.

“Do we mock her? Or does she mock us?”

OpenAI says it plans to gradually build AI with the goal of benefiting all of humanity, but has acknowledged that the software has safety flaws.

Safety is “a process,” Ilya Sutskiver, chief scientist at OpenAI, said in an interview with MIT Technology Review, adding that it would be “highly desirable” for companies to “come up with some kind of process that allows for slower versions of models.” With these completely unprecedented capabilities.

But for now, Chu says, slowing down isn’t just part of the spirit.

“The power centers around those who can build these things. They make the decisions around this, and they tend to move quickly,” she says.

It suggests that the international system itself may be at stake.

“The pressure between the US and China has been tremendous,” says Zhu, adding that the AI ​​race evokes the Cold War era.

“There is definitely a danger with AI that if a country can do it faster, will it dominate?” she asks.

“So I think the fear is, don’t stop because we can’t lose.”



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