The rise of general artificial intelligence – now seen as inevitable in Silicon Valley – will bring changes “orders of magnitude” greater than anything the world has yet seen, observers say. But are we ready?
AGI — defined as artificial intelligence with human-like cognitive abilities, as opposed to narrower artificial intelligence, like the headline-grabbing ChatGPT — 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 raise insurmountable social problems, experts warn.
Previous advances in technology, from electricity to the internet, have sparked powerful social change, says Siqi Chen, chief executive 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 quantity in the universe,” he told AFP.
The change, as a result, will be “an order of magnitude greater than any other technological change we’ve ever had in history.”
And such exciting and frightening change is a “double-edged sword,” Chen said, considering using the AGI to fight climate change, for example, but also warning that it’s a tool. that we want to be as “airship as possible”.
It was the release of ChatGPT at the end of last year that brought the long dreamed idea of AGI one giant step closer to reality.
OpenAI, the company behind the generative software that produces essays, poems and computer code on command, this week released an even more powerful version of the technology that runs 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 “shows human-level performance” on certain benchmarks, the company said.
– Farewell to the “chore” –
The success of Microsoft-backed OpenAI has sparked something of an arms race in Silicon Valley as tech giants seek to take their generative AI tools to the next level, even as they wary of derailed chatbots.
Already, AI-infused digital assistants from Microsoft and Google can summarize meetings, compose emails, build websites, create ad campaigns and more, giving us a glimpse of what AGI will be capable of at the future.
“We spend too much time on drudgery,” said Jared Spataro, vice president of Microsoft.
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 say.
British landscape architect Joe Perkins tweeted that he used GPT-4 for a coding project, which a “really good” developer told him would cost 5,000 pounds ($6,000) and take two weeks.
“GPT-4 delivered the same in 3 hours, for $0.11,” he tweeted. “Truly breathtaking.”
But it raises the question of the threat to human jobs, with entrepreneur Chen acknowledging that technology could one day create a startup like his – or an even better version.
“How am I going to make a living and not be homeless?” he asked, adding that he was counting on solutions to emerge.
– Existential questions –
Pervasive artificial intelligence also puts a question mark over creative authenticity, as songs, images, art and more are created by software rather than people.
Will humans avoid education, instead relying on software to do the thinking for them?
And who to trust to make AI unbiased, accurate, and adaptable to different countries and cultures?
AGI is “probably coming faster than we can process,” says Sharon Zhou, co-founder of a generative AI company.
The technology raises an existential question for humanity, she told AFP.
“If there is to be something more powerful than us and more intelligent than us, what does that mean for us?” Zhou asked.
“And are we exploiting him? Or is he exploiting us?”
OpenAI says it plans to build AGI gradually with the aim of benefiting all of humanity, but it 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 “highly desirable” for companies to “come up with some kind of process that allows slower versions of models with these completely new capabilities.”
But right now, Zhou says, slowing down just isn’t part of the philosophy.
“The power is concentrated around who can build this stuff. And they make the decisions about it, and they’re inclined to move fast,” she says.
The international order itself could be at stake, she suggests.
“The pressure between the United States and China has been immense,” Zhou said, adding that the race for artificial intelligence invoked the Cold War era.
“There is certainly the risk with AGI that if one country finds out sooner, will it dominate?” she asks.
“And so I think the fear is, don’t stop because we can’t lose.”