How AI could change the world even more than electricity or the internet

The rise of artificial general intelligence, now seen as inevitable in Silicon Valley, will bring changes that are “orders of magnitude” greater than anything the world has seen so far, observers say. But are we ready?

Defined as artificial intelligence with human cognitive abilities, as opposed to more limited artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT, which is grabbing headlines, AGI could free people from menial tasks and usher in a new era of creativity.

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

Previous technological advances, from electricity to the internet, have sparked powerful social change, says Siqi Chen, CEO of San Francisco startup Runway.

“But what we are seeing now is intelligence itself… This is the first time that we can create intelligence itself and increase its quantity in the universe,” he told AFP.

The change, as a result, will be “orders of magnitude greater than any other technological change we’ve had in history.”

And such exciting and terrifying change is a “double-edged sword,” Chen said, envisioning using AGI to address climate change, for example, but also cautioning that it’s a tool we want to make as “airy” as possible.

It was the release of ChatGPT late last year that brought AGI’s long-dreamed idea closer to reality.

OpenAI, the company behind generative software that produces essays, poems and computer code on command, this week released an even more powerful version of the technology that powers it: GPT-4.

He 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 “exhibits human-level performance” in some benchmarks, the company said.

– Say goodbye to ‘heavy lifting’ –

The success of Microsoft-backed OpenAI has sparked something of an arms race in Silicon Valley as tech giants look to take their generative AI tools to the next level, though they remain wary that chatbots will go off the rails.

AI-infused digital assistants from Microsoft and Google can already summarize meetings, compose emails, build websites, design ad campaigns and more, giving us a glimpse of what AGI will be capable of in the future.

“We spend too much time consumed by drudgery,” 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 cut costs, some suggest.

British landscape architect Joe Perkins tweeted that he used GPT-4 for a coding project, which a “very good” developer had 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 mind blowing.”

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

“How am I going to make a living and not be homeless?” she asked herself, adding that she expected solutions to emerge.

– Existential issues –

Ubiquitous artificial intelligence also questions creative authenticity, as songs, images, art, and more are produced by software rather than people.

Will humans avoid education and instead trust software to do the thinking for them?

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

AGI “probably comes to us faster than we can process,” says Sharon Zhou, co-founder of a generative artificial intelligence company.

The technology poses 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?” Zhou asked.

“And we harness him? Or does he harness us?”

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

Security is a “process,” OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said in an interview with MIT Technology Review, adding that it would be “very desirable” for companies to “propose some sort of process that allows for slower model releases.” with these completely unprecedented capabilities.”

But for now, Zhou says, slowing down just isn’t in the spirit.

“Power is concentrated around those who can build these things. And they make the decisions around this, and they tend to move fast,” she says.

The international order itself could be at stake, he suggests.

“The pressure between the US and China has been immense,” Zhou says, adding that the AI ​​race invokes the Cold War era.

“There’s definitely a risk with AGI that if one country realizes that faster, will they dominate?” she asks.

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


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