Microsoft’s recent purchase of 49% of OpenAI less than a fortnight after firing over 10,000 employees has the potential to change an industry. It is not yet the death knell for society as we know it but threatens to come close; the bright side of this being that we have enough time to set the stage for when Artificial Intelligence does finally start posing substantial challenges.
AI currently boasts a capacity that should have us scurrying to put in place legislation across the globe that can regulate it the same way we regulate monies and taxes. For example, if I wanted a picture of an astronaut drawn somewhat in the style of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry night’, I can ask an AI program to ‘generate’ that piece of art for me. In fact, I did this just now and this is what a computer program drew:
Nothing tells you that the painting above was made by a computer program besides the tell-tale signature of six coloured squares on the bottom right-hand corner. The program was created by OpenAI, the same company that Microsoft bought for its ChatGPT conversational AI program—the same program that students at Stanford have been using to cheat on their exams and the same program that passed the final exam of Wharton’s MBA program. This could soon make its way into Microsoft’s Windows operating system across the globe, helping you write your next letter—or simply writing your next letter for you.
Both ChatGPT and the image generating whiz known as DALL•E are free to access with limits. The former is on a review basis so everything you say to it is read and analysed to help the AI improve; and the latter lets you ask it for new pictures up to 15 times a month.
The big question now, with AI that can make such convincing Deep Fakes that it takes another AI to detect it—both far surpassing human intelligence—and with AI that can have incredibly human-like conversations while also knowing more and learning faster; and with a program that can draw better than half of humanity, where do we as humans stand in the grand scheme of things. We have created entities that steal from us the one thing that made us superior to all other creatures co-existing with us on Earth: our intelligence.
Legislation must ensure that people whose livelihoods are being threatened by AI are fairly compensated. For this, we would need to usher in a fundamental change in our outlook: the idea that one must work to live ought to be thrown out the window. We must create for ourselves a society in which life is safe and a decent living is guaranteed as part of our humanity. Everything else should be driven by our intent, interest and passion. In many ways the utopian reality of Star Trek does embrace this idea fully.
This is our step forward as a society despite its being apparently so far removed from society as we know it today. And if the introduction of AI in combination with sound legislation can force us to change for good then we should welcome them both with open arms. The freedoms promised by AI have meaning only when fenced by laws.