How artificial intelligence could disrupt the world more than electricity or the internet

Countries and companies are pushing hard to generate artificial intelligence, which tech entrepreneurs believe will dramatically change society.

SAN FRANCISCO: The rise of general artificial intelligence – now considered inevitable in Silicon Valley – will bring about changes of an “order of magnitude” unprecedented in the world, observers say. But are we ready?

AGI—defined as artificial intelligence with human cognitive capabilities, as opposed to narrower AIs such as the compelling ChatGPT—could free people from menial tasks and usher in a new era of creativity.

But experts warn that this historic paradigm shift could also threaten jobs and raise insurmountable social problems.

Past technological advances, from electricity to the internet, have sparked powerful social change, said Siqi Chen, chief executive of Runway, a San Francisco startup.

“But what we’re focusing on now is intelligence itself… for the first time we’ve been able to create intelligence itself and increase its number in the universe,” he told AFP.

As such, the change will be “orders of magnitude larger than all other technological changes in our history.”

Chen said the exciting, frightening shift was a “double-edged sword”, envisioning the use of AGI to fight climate change, but also warned that we wanted it to be a tool “as controllable as possible”. .

The release of ChatGPT late last year brought the long-held dream of AGI one step closer to reality.

OpenAI, the company behind generative software that generates prose, poetry and computational code on command, this week released a more powerful version of the technology that runs it — GPT-4.

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

As a result, it “demonstrated human-level performance” on certain benchmarks, the company said.

– Say goodbye to “drudgery” –

Backed by Microsoft, OpenAI’s success has sparked an arms race in Silicon Valley as tech giants try to push their generative AI tools to the next level — though they remain wary of chatbots going off track.

AI digital assistants from Microsoft and Google can already summarize meetings, draft emails, create websites, craft ad campaigns, and more — giving us a glimpse of what AGI will be capable of in the future.

“We spend too much time doing the drudgery,” says Microsoft corporate vice president Jared Spataro.

Spataro hopes to “rediscover the soul of work” through artificial intelligence, he said in a presentation at Microsoft on Thursday.

Some argue that AI can also reduce costs.

British landscape architect Joe Perkins tweeted that he was using 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. “It’s unbelievable.”

But that raises the question of threats to human jobs, and entrepreneur Chen admits that the technology could one day build startups like his — and even better versions of them.

“How do I make a living without becoming homeless?” he asked, adding that he looked forward to a solution.

– there is a problem –

The ubiquity of artificial intelligence also calls into question the authenticity of creativity, since songs, images, art, etc. are created by software rather than people.

Will humans eschew education and instead rely on software to think for them?

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

AGI “could come at a rate that we can’t handle,” said Sharon Zhou, co-founder of a generative artificial intelligence company.

The technology poses an existential problem for humanity, she told AFP.

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

“Do we drive it? Or does it drive us?”

OpenAI says it plans to gradually build AGI for the benefit of all humanity, but it acknowledges that the software has security flaws.

OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever told MIT Technology Review that security is a “process,” adding that the company “very much wants” to “come up with some kind of process that allows for a slower release model” that is completely unprecedented. ability. “

But for now, Zhou said, slowing down is not part of the ethos.

“The power is concentrated in those who can build these things. They make decisions around that, and they tend to move fast,” she said.

The international order itself could be threatened, she suggested.

“The pressure between the U.S. and China is enormous,” Zhou said, adding that the AI ​​race evokes the Cold War era.

“There is definitely a risk with AGI, if one country solves this faster, will they dominate?” she asked.

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

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