Multiple major announcements and events have occurred in the AI space of late, signalling new and future chapters for this Industry 4.0 storyline in an already fast-moving sector.
Advanced technologies are revolutionising industries from Artificial Intelligence (AI), to the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, to Robotics. AI, in particular, has had a profound impact on the 4IR, transforming the way we live, work, and interact with each other.
Though chatbots have existed since the 60s, only over the past few months have we really begun to see some of the possible future changes, thanks largely to generative AI. These programs offer users the capability to create data such as text (natural and code), imagery (still, moving, and 3D models), and audio (music and voice).
“[AI] will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.” – Bill Gates, The Age of AI has begun
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Microsoft and Google
Speaking of, Microsoft just announced CoPilot for 365 (formerly MS Office). This will add significant task automation functionality to their range of applications, fundamentally changing documents, spreadsheets and slideshows.
This mirrors Google’s recent announcement that they’re currently testing AI-powered writing features in Workspace apps like Docs and Gmail with an aim to add CoPilot-like functions. Google launched its chatbot ‘Bard‘, aiming to rival the likes of OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing Chat. Bard’s been met with mixed reviews and stock price fluctuations since its release.
Predictions are divided as to chatbots’ impact in work and educational contexts, with many fearing job displacement. Though it’s true, certain routine tasks will undoubtedly become automated, this isn’t without historical precedent (i.e. the internet or robotics).
Rather than cause for panic, this points to a need for upskilling and reskilling workers. Ideally, AI’s integration into daily life will allow greater time for creative and complex tasks and increased productivity generally. By viewing AI as a tool, we’ll likely have greater luck. Many agree – the Writers Guild of America last week elected to allow screenwriters to use AI while retaining full credit.
Chatbots are trained off huge datasets called Large Language Models (LLMs) which are generally too complex for the average user’s device. Recently, the public release of a small yet capable LLM, based on Meta’s open-source LLaMA, was adapted by developers to run on smartphones and laptops.
The Alpaca 7B was only available for a few days before Stanford University technologists removed it, citing ‘hallucinations’ and server cost. Despite the setback, this demonstration of portability is a strong indicator of future consumer-driven demand for AI.
LLMs are generally out-of-date by the time they’re made publicly available. ChatGPT only has access to information from pre-September 2021, so it has no knowledge of events after that. Days ago, OpenAI announced a number of plugins including one which allows for internet connectivity and another that allows the chatbot to run its own code.
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These features are currently only available to paying subscribers. However, a public release is anticipated. With up-to-date information, chatbots will be powerful tools in ways we’re yet to realise.
Having just publicly released a fourth version, GPT-4, OpenAI is catapulting its already industry-leading benchmark model forward. Microsoft researchers noted in their early experiments with GPT-4 ‘sparks’ of Artificial General Intelligence – the term for human-level AI.
The Stable Diffusion of Trump
Image-generative AI also made headlines last week as Midjourney v5 stunned users with its photorealism. This was boosted following Donald Trump’s claims of a looming arrest on Truth Social, resulting in the following (AI-generated) images going viral.
These images demonstrate a remarkable improvement in generative technology and foreshadow changes to come.
Where to from here?
As we’ve clearly reached an inflexion point for AI, excitement about the potential near future is mounting. Consider this recent Forbes article anticipating upcoming tech tools.
AI-adjacent developments are looking more likely as well. Newly-formed Silicon Valley company Figure hopes to develop humanoid robots for home and commercial use within “a decade or so,” which would require AI. The use of AI does also raise ethical considerations such as bias, privacy, and transparency. There is a need for frameworks and regulations to ensure that AI is used in a responsible manner.
Consequently, regulators are racing to catch up with AI, a trend marked by the Council of Europe Convention on Artificial Intelligence in early February. Similarly, the World Economic Forum provided a regulatory framework for adopting AI in their Earning Digital Trust report.
Another major concern is the potential digital inequity which might be exacerbated by these developments – those without access may fall behind as ‘skilled’ workers.
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There are however efforts to provide open-source AI tools – for instance, by Mozilla, the company behind the search engine Firefox. Similarly, multinational technology company Nvidia has announced cloud services for hosting custom AI models, increasing accessibility as well.
Sustainable scalability is important as the cloud/AI has a bigger carbon footprint than the airline industry. MIT reported that training a single AI model can emit more than 284,000 kg of carbon dioxide.
So – there are benefits and concerns. Yet, it’s clear that AI will continue to have a significant impact globally, transforming industries and driving economic growth.