The rise of artificial general intelligence, now seen as inevitable in Silicon Valley, will bring change that will be “orders of magnitude” greater than anything the world has seen so far, observers say. But are we ready?
AGI, defined as artificial intelligence with human cognitive abilities, as opposed to narrower artificial intelligence such as the headline-grabbing ChatGPT, could free people from household chores and usher in a new era of creativity
But a historic paradigm shift could also threaten jobs and raise insurmountable social problems, experts warn.
Previous technological advances from electricity to the Internet led to powerful social change, says Siqi 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 change, as a result, will be “orders of magnitude greater than every other technological change we’ve ever had in history.”
And such exciting and terrifying change is a “double-edged sword,” Chen said, envisioning using AGI to tackle climate change, for example, but also cautioning that it’s a tool we want to be as “targeted as possible” .
It was the launch of ChatGPT late last year that brought the long-dreamed idea of AGI one giant leap closer to reality.
OpenAI, the company behind the generative software that produces essays, poems and computer code on demand, 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.
– Goodbye to the “peseria” –
The success of Microsoft-backed OpenAI has sparked an arms race of sorts in Silicon Valley as the tech giants look to take their generative AI tools to the next level, even as they remain wary of chatbots that go off the rails.
AI digital assistants from Microsoft and Google can already summarize meetings, compose emails, create websites, create 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 gloom,” said Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate vice president.
With artificial intelligence, Spataro wants to “rediscover the soul of work,” he said Thursday during a Microsoft presentation.
Some suggest that artificial intelligence can also reduce costs.
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. “Truly 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 an even better version.
“How can I make a living and not be homeless?” he asked, adding that he was counting on solutions to emerge.
– Existential questions –
Ubiquitous artificial intelligence also puts a question mark on creative authenticity, as songs, images, art and more are generated by software instead of people.
Will humans 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,” says Sharon Zhou, co-founder of a generative AI company.
The 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?” Zhou asked.
“And do we take advantage of him? Or does he take advantage of us?”
OpenAI says it plans to build AGI gradually with the goal of benefiting all of humanity, but has admitted 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 kind of process that would allow releases more model lenses with these completely unprecedented capabilities.”
But for now, says Zhou, slowing down is not part of the ethos.
“The power is concentrated around those who can build these things. And they make the decisions around it, and they tend to move quickly,” he says.
The international order itself could be at stake, he suggests.
“The pressure between the United States and China has been immense,” Zhou says, adding that the race in artificial intelligence invokes the Cold War era.
“Is there definitely a risk with AGI that if one country figures it out faster, they dominate?” she asks
“And so I think the fear is, don’t stop because we can’t lose.”