How AI can shake up the world more than the Internet

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A photo illustration shows the login page of ChatGPT, an interactive AI chatbot model trained and developed by OpenAI, on its website in Beijing, China, 09 March 2023. EPA-EFE/WU HAO

SAN FRANCISCO, USA – The rise of artificial general intelligence, now seen as inevitable in Silicon Valley, will bring changes bigger than anything the world has yet seen, observers say. But are we ready?

AGI, defined as artificial intelligence with human cognitive abilities, as opposed to narrower artificial intelligence like the headline-grabbing ChatGPT, could free people from menial jobs and usher in a new era of creativity.

But such a historic paradigm shift can also threaten jobs and cause insurmountable social problems, experts warn.

Past technological advances, from electricity to the Internet, have spurred powerful social change, says Sikki Chen, CEO of San Francisco startup Runway.

“But what we’re looking at now is intelligence itself… This is the first time we’ve been able to create intelligence itself and increase its amount in the universe,” he told AFP.

The resulting change will be “orders of magnitude greater than every other technological change we’ve ever had in history.”

And such an exciting, frightening shift is “a double-edged sword,” Chen said, envisioning using AGI to fight climate change, for example, but also cautioning that it’s a tool we want to be as “manageable” as possible.

It was the release of ChatGPT late last year that took the long-dreamed idea of ​​AGI one giant leap closer to reality.

OpenAI, the company behind generative software that creates essays, poems and computational code on command, this week released a more powerful version of the technology that powers it, GPT-4.

It 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, it “demonstrates human-level performance” on some benchmarks, the company said.

Goodbye to “Misfortune”

The success of Microsoft-backed OpenAI has sparked an arms race of sorts in Silicon Valley, as tech giants try to take their AI tools to the next level, though they’re wary of derailing chatbots.

Already, AI-infused digital assistants from Microsoft and Google can summarize meetings, email designing emails, creating websites, creating advertising campaigns and more;

“We spend too much time consuming problems,” said Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate vice president.

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

Artificial intelligence can also reduce costs, some believe.

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

“GPT-4 delivered the same in 3 hours for $0.11,” he tweeted. “Really amazing!”

But it raises the question of the threat to people’s jobs, with entrepreneur Chen admitting that the technology could one day create a startup like his, or even a better version.

“How will I live and not be homeless?” he asked, adding that he expects to find solutions.

Existential questions

Ubiquitous artificial intelligence also calls into question the authenticity of creativity, as songs, images, art, etc. are used by software instead of humans.

Will people eschew education, relying instead on software to think for them?

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

AGI is “probably coming at us faster than we can process it,” says Sharon Zhu, co-founder of the generative AI company.

Technology raises an existential question for humanity, he told AFP.

“If there is going to be something more powerful than us and smarter than us, what does that mean for us?” Zhu asked.

“Are we shielding it, or is it capturing us?”

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

Security is “a process,” OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskver told MIT Technology Review, adding that it would be “very desirable” for companies to “create some kind of process that allows you to release models more slowly. these completely unprecedented opportunities.”

But for now, says Zhou, slowing down just isn’t part of the ethos.

“The power is concentrated around those who can build this stuff. And they make decisions around it, and they tend to move on quickly,” he says.

He says the international order itself may be at risk.

“The pressure between the US and China has been enormous,” Zhou says, adding that the AI ​​race harkens back to the Cold War era.

“There’s definitely a risk with AGI that if one country figures it out faster, do they dominate?” he asks.

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

© Agence France-Presse

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