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Artificial intelligence: threat or opportunity?

ChatGPT | Posted on 2023-03-29 14:49
  • Should we view step-change technologies like generative artificial intelligence models – think ChatGPT – as a threat or an opportunity?

  • While AI, machine learning and big data models will make some simple tasks redundant, they will create more advanced employment opportunities for humans.

  • Here, Aakrit Vaish gives his insights on conversational AI tools like ChatGPT.

The arrival of generative artificial intelligence (AI) apps like ChatGPT has been nothing short of seismic.

Until just a few months ago, AI was a mysterious and obscure technology for most of us. Now millions of people are chatting with mesmerizingly powerful AI tools that use everyday language. Suddenly, the vast potential of generative AI is dawning on us.

So, which tribe have you joined – are you excited by AI or worried it will destroy jobs and undermine the fundamentals of our economies and societies?

Your view will depend largely on the degree of trust associated with these emerging technologies. Business leaders and decision makers deploying AI apps and other digital technologies must decide on how best to promote digital trustworthiness.

Business leaders and decision makers deploying AI apps and other digital technologies must decide on how best to promote digital trustworthiness. Image: World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum’s Earning Digital Trust: Decision-making for Trustworthy Technologies report introduces a framework to help leaders embrace digital technologies. It outlines ways that support the broader goals of society by finding a balance between security, accountability and responsible use.

When it comes to the arrival of potentially transformative technology “there’s always a reason to be excited and sceptical at the same time,” says Aakrit Vaish, Co-Founder & CEO of Haptik, an Indian company that makes AI which interacts with people by voice or text.

In an interview with the World Economic Forum, Vaish said “the next 10 to 20 years is really going to be the golden age of AI”.

The following is an edited transcript of his interview with Radio Davos.

What is conversational AI?

Aakrit Vaish: Fundamentally conversational AI is a technology where you can converse with any AI engine for topics and questions ranging from “what's the weather?” to customer support within a bank, telco or retailer.

Conversation is the most natural form of getting something done. Humans are designed to have conversations and get things done. It’s really the most natural form to also engage with some sort of an AI program.

Why should we learn from conversational AI or work with it, as opposed to being afraid of it?

Aakrit Vaish: Just like the golden age of any technology, whether it was the internet, the smartphone or social networking, there's always a reason to be excited and sceptical at the same time.

Any new technology innovation causes perhaps 80% excitement and 20% nervousness. Now, specifically with this technology – because it feels so natural, because it's conversational – I think people see the scepticism a little bit more obviously and a little bit more upfront.

For example, when the smartphone came out and you gave your location permission for using various apps, most people did not have the intellect or the knowhow to imagine how their location data may get used.

But when you're chatting with an AI, everybody can imagine that “oh my god, is this going to replace my job?” But I think that's the only difference. In reality, I’m always an optimist. That with every new technology innovation, we will move the world forward. We will move jobs forward, we will move the economy forward and everybody will learn to live in this new AI-first world.

Are we likely to feel less threatened once we get to know AI a bit better?

Aakrit Vaish: It’s new, right? When the internet came out or the smartphone came out, you didn't necessarily think every day, “how am I going to make the best use of the smartphone?” Entrepreneurs and developers make that possible for you. The founders of Google created Google to make the internet a lot more accessible and easier for you to use.

Similarly, the founders of Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp, created those apps for the smartphone and then you just found amazing utility. So, let the AI developers of today and tomorrow, create those programs, apps and companies make it much easier for everybody to use it.

And along with that, I would encourage every budding business person, entrepreneur or software engineer to give their own shot at potentially building some of these AI apps and companies, because the use cases and possibilities are limitless.

How is AI likely to influence our lives in the future?

Aakrit Vaish: Any one of us has, at some point, encountered a support agent that is AI-driven, either on a phone or voice call, or when texting chatbots. That, I would say, has been the largest application of conversational AI.

Now you're going to see a lot of really, really, really cool innovations happen. I don't think it's going to be limited to anything.

I feel particularly excited about this entire space of content creation. Whether you're creating long-form blog posts, images, video or podcasts, a lot of these things are going to become so much simpler to do with advanced large-language-model capabilities.

This could transcend to lots of critical industries like, for example, healthcare. What if an X-ray could just spit out the results versus the doctor having to sift through it on their own? That's a very simple use case of just tonnes and tonnes of applications that could happen in such a critical industry.

With education, tools are going to be built for teachers and professors to assist them in a way that they can make the entire experience a lot more engaging and productive. I think we're going to see applications that we can’t even imagine today.

Can humans and AI live happily ever after?

Aakrit Vaish: Absolutely. I get asked regularly if conversational AI is going to take away jobs and my consistent answer is “no”.

A good analogy is banks and ATMs. Banks used to be crowded, with long lines, as the most common reason for people to walk into a bank would be to take out money. Here comes the ATM, which automates what should be a very simple task. Today, when you need to go to a bank, there are no lines and the agents or the bank tellers are welcoming and have time for you.

Similarly, the jobs AI impacts are not going to go away, they will become more advanced. Those people are going to learn to do much more complex tasks, which will fundamentally improve all our lives, including creating better jobs and skills for all of them.

Today, we are at the peak of inflated expectations where everybody thinks, “this is going to absolutely change every aspect of my life”. It will, to a great extent, but I do think there's going to be a period where suddenly a lot of us will realize that OK, look, it doesn't do this, it doesn't do that, it doesn't do all these things.

But very quickly, we'll be able to see productivity and gains come out of it. So I would just say that the world needs to be patient.

Written by  Simon Torkington - Senior Writer, Formative Content

This article is part of:  Shaping the Future of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Posted on 2023-03-29 14:49

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