After fire, electricity and the internet, the revolution of “general” artificial intelligence.

published on Sunday 19 March 2023 at 06:30

The rapid deployment of an increasingly “general” artificial intelligence (AI), endowed with human cognitive capabilities and therefore likely to disrupt many professions, is considered inevitable in Silicon Valley and arouses a fascination that overwhelms the voice calling to slow down the pace .

“If you take the invention of electricity, computers, the Internet and cell phones together, you’re still short of what we’re going to see,” said Siqi Chen, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur.

“All of these things were created by intelligence. But for the first time, we’re able to create intelligence itself,” he continues. “It’s a double-edged sword, but if it goes right, it can solve all problems (…), like global warming.”

Like many other tech players, Siqi Chen believes he’s witnessing a historic paradigm shift.

Especially after Tuesday’s presentation by OpenAI of GPT-4, a new even more powerful version of the natural language model that powers ChatGPT, the generative AI interface used by millions of people for a few months to write essays, poems or even lines of computer code.

ChatGPT will be able to process not only text, but also images, and produce more complex content, such as legal complaints or video games.

GPT-4 thus represents a step forward in the direction of so-called “general” artificial intelligence, that of programs “more intelligent than humans in general”, according to Sam Altman, the boss of the Californian start-up.

– “Amazing” –

Microsoft, the lead investor in OpenAI, promised on Thursday that “soon we won’t be able to do without” AI-powered generative assistants, capable of interacting with humans in their own languages ​​and performing all sorts of tasks. meeting to the creation of a website or an advertising campaign.

These tools will free humans “from the drudgery that stifles creativity” so they can reconnect with “the soul of their work,” said Jared Spataro, IT group executive.

“I used GPT-4 to code 5 micro features for a new product. One (very good) developer wanted $6,000 and two weeks. GPT-4 did it in 3 hours for $0.11. Amazing,” Joe tweeted Perkins, a British entrepreneur.

Siqi Chen acknowledges that new technology may one day replace it. But she counts on humans’ ability to adapt, with solutions such as universal income.

Beyond the threat to the intellectual and artistic professions, general AI is stirring up insurmountable debates in society.

What will remain authentic, when the slightest Instagram photo or restaurant opinion has been produced with or by artificial intelligence? What will become of learning when it will be enough to make demands on machines? Who should make the decisions to define the algorithms?

– “Existential” –

“General AI is coming faster than we can stomach it,” notes Sharon Zhou, founder of a generative AI start-up.

“This will pose existential questions for humanity. If it is more powerful and intelligent than us, are we exploiting it? Or is it exploiting us?” asks the former Stanford University researcher.

OpenAI says it wants to build general AI gradually, aiming to benefit all of humanity. It relies on the widespread use of its models to detect and correct problems.

But the company itself seems overwhelmed by events.

Greg Brockman, one of the co-founders, admitted in an interview with The Information that ChatGPT was not as values-neutral as they would have liked.

Ilya Sutskever, the scientific director, wishes “there was a way to slow the rate of release of these models with unprecedented capabilities,” according to an interview with MIT Technology Review.

And the start-up, whose name means “open AI”, is being criticized for its lack of transparency. GPT-4’s release marks “its transformation from a nonprofit research lab into a capitalist enterprise,” judge Will Douglas Heaven, an expert on this science journal.

But despite the criticisms, concerns, and real and imagined risks, the industry remains convinced that mainstream AI is on its way, inexorably.

Because the race between companies is open, explains Sharon Zhou, but also between countries, especially the United States and China.

“The power is in the hands of those who can build all this,” he says. “And we can’t stop, because we can’t afford to lose.”