Since the launch of ChatGPT, OpenAI’s eerily humanlike chatbot, at the end of 2022, talk of the coming AI revolution has been impossible to ignore. Technological progress is happening at such a rapid rate that it can be hard to keep up, and tech titans like Microsoft and Google are turning their vast resources towards dominating the space.
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT are undoubtedly powerful, and their impact is already being felt in marketing and many other industries, but they’re not without their problems. We spoke to Jane Wakefield, a journalist with two decades of experience covering technology for the BBC, about where we might be heading next.
“The conversation around AI has been bubbling along in the background for some time, but it really exploded with the release of ChatGPT because of that open access”, says Jane. “People have been talking about it, experimenting with it, and posting about it on social media, which is unsurprising because there has undoubtedly been a jump forward in the technology. There are some things it’s astonishingly good at.”
As well as getting people thinking about how these tools might impact things like school, homework and university exams, for example, ChatGPT has spurred tech giants like Google and Microsoft into action too. “We’ve seen Microsoft investing huge sums of money into OpenAI”, says Jane, while Google, previously more cautious about releasing the AI tools it has been developing to the public, has also signalled a change in approach.
This rush to market may drive innovation, but it can also cause harm. It was only after ChatGPT was released that OpenAI announced it was working on a tool to detect AI-generated content. “It’s putting the cart before the horse in a way, and we see that time and time again from tech companies.”
A fundamental problem with the AI industry (and the wider tech industry), however, is a lack of transparency, says Jane. “These huge companies dominate the development of new technologies because their bottomless pockets mean they can offer unbeatable salaries, or buy out young start-ups.
“The problem then is that we don’t know what’s going on under the bonnet with this tech, aside from what these companies choose to tell us – they’re black boxes. We need to think about the profit motive behind this technology and its development.” OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, is a good example – it began as a non-profit in 2015, before transitioning to a for-profit model four years later.
Out with the old…
Throughout history, technological advances have brought with them concerns that jobs would be lost. But nearly a century after the economist John Maynard Keynes famously predicted that that his grandchildren would only have to work 15 hours a week, full-time work remains the norm. Could AI be the thing that finally changes that?
“A lot of people in the AI sphere talk about AI as a tool that humans can use, not something that can replace us”, says Jane. “After the initial flurry of excitement around ChatGPT, once it was out in the wild and people started putting it through its paces, it became clear that it’s not perfect”. One concerning example, she says, is the bot’s tendency to respond confidently and assertively with information that is not correct.
“There are already things that AI is doing that mean people don’t need to do them any more. But equally, people are very adaptable, and have adapted to technology to find new ways to be creative throughout history. I think AI will replace jobs, but it will create new ones too.”
As with any emerging field, there are big question marks around policy and legislation too. “There’s a lot of lip service paid to new technology by the government”, says Jane, but the technology is moving much faster than politicians. As a result, questions around things like the legality of training AI technology on copyrighted content are unanswered as of yet.
A quantum leap?
Now that AI has captured the public imagination, breathless talk about the next stage of its development is everywhere. But in light of the rapid (and recent) rise and fall of cryptocurrency, some are questioning whether AI could be another bubble.
“I’d never rule out a big leap”, says Jane. “Take DeepMind, for example – its protein folding technology was an insane step forward that felt like it came out of nowhere. I think AI has the momentum at the moment, but it may be smaller iterative changes before the next major leap. There’s plenty to keep an eye on.”
To find out more about the role AI could play in your content marketing campaign, get in touch with Wardour at email@example.com – we’d love to have a chat.
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