Following the AI UK safety summit at Bletchley Park, the recent noise of Google’s Gemini with its potential capabilities in natural language processing, large-scale machine learning, coupled with its vast dataset access, and Microsoft’s Co-pilot potential to outperform existing models in terms of scale, efficiency, and contextual understanding, this is really starting to push the boundaries of AI capabilities.
In the escalating competition and the race to get there first, 2024 is going to be a ‘game-changer’ of a year! However, it does beg the question of what will be the magnitude of AI integration across the various ecosystems we use in our daily lives. Using the stampede, we have seen in the last decade of companies going ‘Cloud First’, often without thinking through the full implications of that decision, with many now declaring ‘Cloud Considered’ as the right direction. Jump in first and then regret later.
Ironically as AI started as non for profit with its bold commitment to enhance society from the resulting advancements in diverse applications such as healthcare, education, and automation – no one could argue against these intentions for greater good. However, it was still backed by private industry with Microsoft planning to invest $10 billion in OpenAI for a 49% stake to jointly develop advanced AI technologies. As much as Microsoft envisions AI as a tool to amplify human potential, it still has its stakeholders to answer to in terms of return on investment. In the expansive realm of AI and machine learning startups, Microsoft’s investment positions OpenAI in direct competition with the major players in the likes of self-driving cars and social media apps fuelled by machine learning. As we have now started to see with the rebranding of many of Microsoft’s applications now being denoted with ‘Co-pilot’, this new technology will be added into every facet of its business to keep investors happy.
One of the key changes I think will happen and will happen quite quickly is the impact on AI in terms of how we use the internet and search for things. Clearly this is a grab for market share by Microsoft to target Google’s dominance in the online ad world, with investment to expand ChatGPT so that in future we will no longer ‘google’ for what we are looking for but search directly from our desktops via Co-Pilot. Bing are currently trialling this new way of working, and this is going to become an emerging market. Imagine in the future simply accessing and telling the application what you need, it creates that, accessing what it needs from anywhere from your files to the internet straight from whatever document or application you are in, because that is the direction it is going in.
Having previously missed the opportunity to dominate the web and the transition from desktop to mobile, Microsoft doesn’t want to miss out on whatever’s coming up next, and desperately wants to tie people into ongoing subscriptions so the money’s always flowing. So, your basic use of ChatGPT is free, but through subscription you get the latest updates and don’t get blocked during busy periods. It has already become a money-making tool and one that will continue to grow. It is all massively accelerating at a significant pace. New worlds are opening up and paywalls will continue to grow and dominate.
Where AI will start having more of an impact though is in the area of VR and gaming. The biggest hold-up in this sector being the non-wearable tech, and headsets etc, that are clearly restrictive, and you can’t wander round easily. However, all of this is advancing too. The bulky headsets will become glasses, and the devices themselves will be the size of your phone in your hand. Imbedded implants will be the future, and then even less equipment needed. In terms of its use, when VR first emerged about 30yrs ago, I remember seeing it being used for either gaming and fighting dragons, or in development projects like on the Piper Alpha. Moving forwards I see it having the biggest impact on the health service for specialist requirements like 3D scans whereby you can walk into them and removing the need for equipment like MRI and CT scans. Operations will take place alongside the scan enabling medics to see exactly how the procedure needs to take place. What I don’t share is Meta’s vision that we will take on a projected, augmented reality. People like people and interaction with each other. There is a place for AI in VR, but alongside living and normal life too.
So, there are positives from AI moving forwards, and it will be the companies that keep up with the changes that will survive. What is clear is that change is coming, and it is not only the global giants that need to adapt to survive but ultimately the users of the tech. The negatives will be how this is all managed and having seen recently that AI was able to create its own language and had to be immediately shut down, is a scary prospect. The project with AI on Twitter/X when the influence of negativity from the site became apparent in the information being used and that was also stopped. If AI is not ethically developed and remains in the hands of a few, concerns include biased algorithms, discriminatory practices, lack of transparency, and potential misuse for concentrated power. This could exacerbate inequalities, threaten privacy, and undermine the overall societal benefit of AI technologies.
However, what doesn’t appear to have been considered in all of this is the environmental impact, not just the impact on humans. The servers behind this level of technology all need power and cooling, and the more we advance in this kind of technology, this will only grow. In a world where global warming is already a huge issue, we also need to be reviewing how all of this, will impact that too. That, however, is probably another article in itself.