The rise of AI. the internet no longer belongs to the users
Once upon a time, the Internet belonged to cats.
It was that weird time in the late nineties when everyone online seemed to be posting pictures of cats (believe it or not My cat hates you(Opens in a new tab), the blog that pioneered angry cat photos is still online). It just seemed like the right thing to do. Open a blog; post a photo of your cute feline companion; be happy when someone leaves a comment.
There were other things online besides cats, of course. But that was a time when the Internet, then spelled with a capital “I,” was a big thing, but not yet a big thing, and no one was quite sure how it would turn out.
I was there from the very beginning. In 1994, my father connected his Windows 3.1 PC to the Internet via a US Robotics dial-up modem and said: “Son, this is called the Internet here.”
You could transfer files with FTP (very slow), search documents with Gopher, and the best browser was called Cello. I’ve used it to find weird poetry, early works by William Gibson, and lyrics to Tool songs. I knew the world wide web would become huge one day, but back then it was still very empty. The Internet of that era was not really for anyone. it was a huge frontier that had to be filled with many things and then explored.
After that initial era of research, the Internet stopped being one thing and became everything. It soon became more difficult to complete a school project or do your job without the Internet. And very soon after that, it became almost unthinkable. Businesses, institutions and households all went online. Facebook and Twitter were created. Some people have realized that they spend too much time on the Internet. Some people continued to post photos of cats.
I am writing this brief history of the Internet because I have a strong feeling that we are once again at the end of an era. For all the good and bad things it’s brought us, the Internet has always been mostly ours. Yes, some of the emails we received were automated, Google’s bots scoured the web for information on how to rank web pages in its search results, and some of our computers turned into botnets that mined Bitcoin. But the Internet was still largely designed, or at least it seemed, for people to use and explore.
Step aside, man. AI is here to take over
OpenAI recently launched a new version of the AI model that powers its ChatGPT chatbot, GPT-4. For the first time, it has the ability to understand and process information from images. This opens up some possibilities that were previously unavailable, and I’ve already seen examples of how this will change things.
Developed by OpenAI, a nonprofit research lab turned for-profit AI powerhouse, ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence language model that can provide surprisingly human-sounding answers to many queries. Chatbots have been around for decades, but ChatGPT was different. it can answer both specific and vague questions; it can pretend to be someone else; it can write poems and plays in the styles of famous poets and playwrights (go here for a more comprehensive overview of ChatGPT).
The previous major version of ChatGPT, based on the GPT-3 model, graphically broke the Internet, quickly becoming the hottest tech topic and the fastest growing app of all time.
GPT-4, on the other hand, has the potential to literally break the Internet. It’s not immediately obvious. When you chat with it, ChatGPT based on the new GPT-4 model is not radically different from its predecessor. But it paves the way for much more powerful applications.
AI expert Travis Fisher lists some examples of what this overkill can do thread(Opens in a new tab). These include the creation of an artificial intelligence that can interact with all or most of them web page elements(Opens in a new tab)as well as create a functional website by simply entering a from a sketch real world notebook(Opens in a new tab). Changes to GPT-4 also allow it to understand longer inputs and generate longer outputs, which means it can, for example, build fairly complex applications on its own.
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Unlike a human, who can perform one or perhaps a few tasks at a time, an AI bot is limited by the limitations of the hardware it runs on (and the associated costs, but I’ll leave them out for simplicity); give it a powerful processor and lots of memory, and it can do the same thing millions or billions of times a day if needed. When we consider the implications of a tool like GPT-4, we must consider the sheer scale at which it can operate.
Now that ChatGPT (and soon similar AI bots) can do both to use web pages and to build web pages, people will start using it to browse the web without them, then to build the web without them, and finally to build the web for use without them. The first round will happen quickly. it will be a while before we get to the last one, but i’m pretty sure it’s coming. At that point, the web will be a giant, incredibly tangled web of data that’s largely impenetrable to humans unless they use an AI assistant to access it.
Need to do something online? Ask the AI
Let’s say you need to browse through a number of real estate listings in Houston. maybe you’re looking to buy, or you need some real estate data for a work project. Good news. AdeptAILabs has built a bot(Opens in a new tab) which can do it for you. In another example, a company’s AI bot can perform complex tasks in Salesforce(Opens in a new tab)only one sentence is required as input.
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If you’re studying for a law school exam, it’s a good idea to ask ChatGPT for help. After all, it beats most law school graduates on bar exams, according to this study(Opens in a new tab). An AI-powered legal assistant(Opens in a new tab) Based on GPT-4 already exists, and while it cannot replace a human lawyer, it may soon become an indispensable tool for lawyers.
In fact, AI assistants that can perform all kinds of web tasks for you already exist, and some are on the way. more powerful(Opens in a new tab) thanks to GPT-4. When they become as good as humans at certain tasks, doing things the old fashioned way without the help of an AI bot can seem like a waste of time. And when that happens, the web will probably start to change.
Other types of web
One direction this could all go is a kind of meta-web where you rarely actually browse the web; instead, you talk to a bot that goes online to fetch you the things you need. Like a fully autonomous car that no longer needs wheels, the Internet may soon begin to change and adapt to a landscape that no longer needs to be pleasing to the human eye; instead, it should be easily accessible to bots. Somehow, it has already happened. a significant portion of what happens online is done by software rather than by humans, but at least the human front of the web remains. In a few years, it may no longer be needed, or it may take a different form, perhaps a summary of sorts, tailored to each user’s needs and interests.
An early example of this happening, somewhat disturbingly, can be found in captchas, those annoying puzzles that require you to prove you’re human. I recently noticed a new type of captcha that uses AI generated images. There’s a bit of irony in a system that tells an AI to create images of robots and then asks you, the human, to accurately identify these images in the hope that other AIs can’t. In this equation, one feels like an unnecessary intermediary that will one day be removed altogether.
This is already happening. In the GPT-4 skill test, OpenAI had ChatGPT is a blind man(Opens in a new tab) to successfully bypass the captcha prompt. In fact, it actually convinced a human, a TaskRabbit employee, to solve the captcha for him and provide the answers. An AI passed a test that was only meant for humans to pass, and it did so by tricking a human into doing its bidding.
None of this means that ChatGPT is “alive” or smarter than us in any way. It’s still just a tool for people. But the ease and speed with which GPT-4 can perform certain tasks predicts a future where it simply doesn’t make sense for humans to perform such tasks. It’s easy, if a bit dystopian, to imagine captchas designed not only to protect dumb bots, but also humans, allowing only smart bots to gain access. A web designed for use by artificial intelligence may have parts that are not designed for human use. not without an AI mediator.
However, there is one thing we have yet to be able to do on our own: post cat photos.