How AI could turn the world upside down even more than electricity or the internet

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

AGI — defined as artificial intelligence with human cognitive abilities, as opposed to more narrowly defined artificial intelligence like the headline-grabbing ChatGPT — could free humans from menial tasks and usher in a new era of creativity.

But such a historic paradigm shift could also jeopardize jobs and raise 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 start-up Runway.

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

The shift will consequently be “orders of magnitude greater than any other technological shift we have ever seen in history.”

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

It was the release of ChatGPT late last year that brought the long-awaited idea of ​​AGI a big step closer to reality.

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

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

As such, “it shows human-level performance on some benchmarks,” the company said.

– Goodbye to the “drudgery” –

The success of OpenAI, backed by Microsoft, has sparked something of an arms race in Silicon Valley as tech giants seek to take their generative AI tools to the next level — though they remain wary of chatbots going haywire.

The story goes on

Already, AI-infused digital assistants from Microsoft and Google can aggregate meetings, draft emails, build 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 drudgery,” said Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate vice president.

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

Artificial intelligence can also reduce costs, some say.

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 did the same in 3 hours for $0.11,” he tweeted. “Really stunning.”

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

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

– existential questions –

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Pervasive artificial intelligence is also challenging creative authenticity, as songs, images, art and more are generated by software rather than humans.

Will people shun education and instead rely on software to do the thinking for them?

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

AGI “is probably coming at us faster than we can handle,” says Sharon Zhou, co-founder of a generative AI company.

The technology raises an existential question for humanity, she told AFP.

“If there will be something more powerful and intelligent than us, what does that mean for us?” Zhou asked.

“And do we use it? Or does it benefit 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 Sutskever said in an interview with MIT Technology Review, adding that it would be “highly desirable” for companies to “develop a process that allows for slower release of models.” these totally unparalleled skills.”

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

“The power is concentrated in those who can build this stuff. And they make the decisions around the issue, and they tend to act quickly,” she says.

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

“The pressure between the US and China was immense,” Zhou says, adding that the race for artificial intelligence evokes the Cold War era.

“With AGI, there’s definitely a risk that one country will dominate if it finds out faster?” she asks.

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“And I think the fear is not quitting because we can’t lose.”

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