There have been moments of before and after in the modern technology era. Everything was one way, and then just like that, it suddenly became clear that it would never be the same again. Netscape showed the world the Internet; Facebook made that internet private; The iPhone made it clear how the mobile era would dominate. There are others – there’s a dating-app moment in there somewhere, and Netflix starting to stream movies might also qualify – but not many.
ChatGPT, which OpenAI launched a year ago today, might have been the most low-key game-changer ever. No one took the stage and announced that they had invented the future, and no one thought they were launching the thing that would make them rich. If we’ve learned one thing over the past 12 months, it’s that no one – not OpenAI’s competitors, not the public using the technology, not even the platform’s creators – thought ChatGPT would Will become the fastest growing consumer technology in history. And looking back, the fact that no one saw ChatGPT coming is probably why it changed everything.
Since ChatGPT was launched, it has brought about change in practically every corner of the technology industry. In a year otherwise marked by a steep decline in venture-capital investment, any company with “AI” in the pitch deck is able to raise money — $17.9 billion in the third quarter of this year, according to PitchBook, and some of the industry’s biggest VCs. Companies are raising huge amounts of money to invest in AI.
ChatGPT is still an extremely simple app – but it’s been a huge hit nonetheless. Image: OpenAI
It appears that some companies are already at the top of the pack: Anthropic is becoming one of OpenAI’s best and most well-funded competitors, MidJourney’s image-generating AI is improving at a remarkable pace , and even the pica is improving this week. appeared out of nowhere With a seriously impressive AI video tool. But whether you like note-taking apps, audio-mixing tools, or easy ways to summarize meetings or books or legal documents, something new and cool is launched practically every day.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the tech industry, AI has eaten up the biggest companies on the planet. Microsoft, an OpenAI partner and investor, has bet big on AI-powered Bing, also bringing its AI “Copilot” to Office, Windows, Azure, and more. Google, which invented much of the foundational technology that is now suddenly everywhere, rushed to launch Bard and the Search Generator Experience, and built Duet AI into its workplace products. AI was the centerpiece of Amazon’s announcements this year, from LLM-powered Alexa to one million new AI tools for AWS customers. The meta now sees AI as an important part of its future, perhaps even more so than the metaverse. AI hardware made Nvidia one of the most valuable companies on earth. Even Apple, the least aggressive of the tech giants, has started talking more about its AI efforts — and there may be big plans coming soon for Siri. I could go on. Call it a boom, call it a bubble, but it’s been a long time since the entire tech world was so obsessed with one thing.
However, make no mistake: ChatGPT is the biggest winner of the ChatGPT revolution. It doesn’t look like much – its new audio and image features are neat, but it’s still a roughly designed chat interface – and it suffers from reliability issues, but that hasn’t stopped its momentum. It had one million users in five days, 100 million after just two months, and now claims to have 100 million every week.
ChatGPT is the biggest winner of the ChatGPT revolution
ChatGPT, and the model that underpins it, has quickly become a billion-dollar business for OpenAI. It did something almost impossible: it’s a data provider, making money off other businesses that want to build stuff on top of the GPT model, and has a hit consumer app in its own right. People pay $20 a month to use ChatGPT, while other companies pay much more to use its models – OpenAI keeps them coming and going.
You can practically no longer click on a link on the Internet without encountering confident predictions about how AI will change everything. It can write your emails for you! It will take over the internet with the nonsense it generates! It can write code! It will write malware that will ruin everything! It could make Pixar movies! It will remain trapped in the uncanny valley forever! You will never get a job again! you will never need Job again! AI will save us! AI will kill us!
It’s worth pointing out here that in reality, much of this technology is still not very good. Big language models “hallucinate,” which is a nice way of saying they make things up all the time. If you look at an AI image for longer than about two seconds, you can always tell where it was generated. The emails it writes for you always have a machine-made vibe. AI systems are not smarter, or more creative, or really anything at all than humans. Is it remarkable that they are as good as they are? Sure! But AI is shaping up to be like self-driving cars so far – it’s getting better faster than anyone anticipated, and it’s going to take a lot of work to get it everywhere. Right now, there’s no reason to think we’re going to hit some kind of superhuman artificial general intelligence any time soon. if ever.
However, this is the point where “nobody saw it coming” gets complicated. AI may not be finished yet, but it’s already better than most people expect. And even in recent weeks, the speed with which ChatGPT has grown has led to OpenAI splitting into two and OpenAI moving to monetize it with an app store and other tools. CEO Sam Altman was ousted for a while, for reasons we still don’t know exactly: whether it was a power play between board members and executives, the result of a disagreement over security, Or was it something else entirely?
2023 Has Forced Everyone to Come to Grips with What It All Means
That play was strange and high-risk and ultimately probably not related to the broader question. So let’s get back to that broader question: what are we really building here, Because it all happened so fast, and because the impacts of AI are potentially widespread, 2023 has forced everyone to come to grips with what it all means.
OpenAI’s original mission statement was “to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unrestricted by the need to generate financial returns.” Which is unclear, but sounds good! This is easy to say even when there are no financial returns, and it becomes even harder when analysts estimate that your total addressable market is more than a trillion dollars.
In technology and around the world, many people are pondering this very tension. If you’re Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, and you’ve now spent five years saying that AI is “more profound than lightning or fire,” do you have a responsibility to maximize its value to shareholders or humanity? There’s not a lot of evidence to show that you can do both at the same time, and historically speaking, shareholders win. If AI is going to change everything – like, literally everything – can it do so inside the tech industry and economy as we know it? Is the AI we need the same AI that makes the most money?
Is it your responsibility to maximize the value of AI to shareholders or to humanity?
We definitely like being able to write business emails more quickly, and we like being able to ask Excel to “make it into a bar graph” rather than having to search through menus. We love being able to code by simply telling ChatGPT what we want our app to do. But do we want SEO-optimized, AI-generated news stories to take over the publications we used to love? Do we want AI bots that act like real-life characters and become anthropomorphic companions in our lives? Should we think of AI more as a tool or an ally? If an AI tool can be trained to create the exact song/movie/image/story I want right now, is that art or is that dystopia? Even as we begin to answer those questions, AI technology is always one step and a cultural revolution ahead.
Additionally, there have been lawsuits accusing AI companies of stealing artists’ work, to which multiple US judges have said, essentially: our current copyright laws have absolutely no idea what to do with AI. Lawmakers have pulled out about AI safety, and President Joe Biden has signed a fairly general executive order directing agencies to create safety standards and requiring companies to do good and not evil. There is a case being made that the AI revolution was built on unethical and/or illegal grounds, and yet the creators of these models and companies are confidently moving forward with their plans, while saying that it is impossible to stop them and progress. -Both are opposites. Or slow them down.
This all gets heady really fast, I know. And the truth is that no one knows where all this will be 12 months from now, especially not the people making the loudest predictions. All you have to do is look at recent hype cycles – blockchain, the metaverse and many others – for evidence that things usually don’t work out the way we think. But there is so much momentum behind the AI revolution, and so many companies deeply invested in its future, that it’s hard to imagine GST going the way of NFTs.
The Humane AI Pin is the first in an upcoming series of AI gadgets. Image: humanitarian
If anything, the next 12 months will see the AI industry move even faster than the last 12 months. OpenAI’s technology has improved significantly since the first ChatGPT launch, as have those of its competitors. And the entire industry has had a year to think about all the places where AI can be useful in our lives and profitable in their products. There will be new companies building AI chips, AI data centers, and the rest of the large infrastructure needed to make AI work at speed and scale. We’re going to get a lot of AI-focused gadgets, like the Human AI Pin, as companies try to figure out if chatbots can push us into a post-smartphone era. (Although, personally, I wouldn’t bet against screens anytime soon.)
We don’t know yet whether AI will ultimately change the world the same way the Internet, social media, and smartphones did. Those things weren’t just technological leaps — they actually reorganized our lives in fundamental and irreversible ways. If the ultimate form of AI is “my computer writes some of my emails for me”, then AI will not make that list. But there are a lot of smart people and trillions of dollars betting this is the beginning of the AI story, not the end. If they’re right, the day OpenAI launches a “research preview” of ChatGPT will be bigger than any product launch for ages. This will be the day the world changed, and we didn’t even see it coming.