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Does Elon Musk’s call for an AI pause really have humanity at its heart?

Artificial Intelligence abstract
By David Linnett
04 April 2023
Technology, Media & Telecomms

A group of artificial intelligence experts have this week co-signed a letter calling for a six-month pause in AI developing systems, citing concerns that powerful AI systems could present a risk to society and humanity. The Future of Life Institute, who issued the letter, wants protocols and regulations in place that ensure systems can’t be used for sinister purposes, such as political interference. 

On the face of it, it appears that the group of signatories have a genuine concern for society and want regulators to catch up with the exponential pace of AI development. However, when you dig a little deeper, names such as Elon Musk can be found on the list of signatures, a co-founder of ChatGPT-creator OpenAI, which has had free reign to date in running its own product on the open market. So much so that they have just released their latest instalment, GPT4, and are due to release their next, GPT5, in just six months’ time. Will the other AI tools have time to catch up? Does Elon want them to? Only time will tell.

GPT5 is rumoured to be able to achieve AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) – which in plain terms, means AGI could be indistinguishable from a human in its capabilities. That surely would give anyone pause for thought – where does this lead, can regulators keep up, what does this mean for me and my business?

The implications are far reaching however, even the definition of AI is disputed amongst tech experts. But in the wider world of AI, we have seen some interesting developments this week.

Microsoft is threatening to restrict access to its internet search data, which it licenses to rival search engines if they do not stop using it as a basis for their own AI chat products. This is just one example of the increasingly competitive environment in which AI developers are operating. Microsoft of course relaunched its Bing search engine with AI at the beginning of February, as well as Copilot, which embeds Microsoft’s suite of productivity tools with AI. Copilot works as a virtual assistant, meaning everyday admin tasks such as summarising meeting notes in Word, or summarising data in Excel, can be done via AI.

Elsewhere, Instacart is adding OpenAI’s ChatGPT tech to its grocery delivery app. Instacart will use the AI to respond to specific shopper requests such as budget, use of specific ingredients or health goals, and present a suggested shopping cart. This is (to some) a very cool prospect and when you think about the opportunities it presents, the possibilities really are endless. Do you want a beach holiday somewhere with good weather in November, that has good seafood restaurants and facilities for children on a specific budget? AI can remove the time intensive search process and present you with exactly the right solution. Or do you have a need for some shoes that match with five different outfits? AI can find you exactly what you are looking for without having to search yourself. 

The opportunities are seemingly infinite, but as Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president, chairman and co-founder recently said, it is important for companies to consider the stakes involved in the way they plan to use ChatGPT technology. “Medical and personal advice, those things start to be a little bit high stakes.”