Big Tech In Charge As ChatGPT Turns One

The AI revolution has arrived a year after the historic release of ChatGPT, but the recent boardroom crisis at OpenAI, the firm behind the super software, has removed any doubt that Big Tech is in power.

In some ways, the stealthy unveiling of ChatGPT on November 30th of last year was a form of retaliation for the geeks, the unsung academics and engineers who have been silently constructing generative AI behind the scenes.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, a well-known name in technical circles but little recognized beyond that, ensured that this underappreciated AI breakthrough received the attention it deserved with the introduction of ChatGPT.

ChatGPT quickly became the most popular program in history (it has since been surpassed by Meta’s Threads), as users marveled at the ability to generate poems, recipes, or whatever else the internet could create in seconds.

Altman’s bet propelled the 38-year-old Stanford dropout to household name status, transforming him into a sort of philosopher king of AI, with world leaders and tycoons hanging on his every word.

With AI, “you’re in the business of making and selling things you can’t put your hands on,” said University of Washington historian Margaret O’Mara and author of “The Code”, a history of Silicon Valley.

“Having a figurehead of someone who can explain it, especially when it’s advanced technology, is really important,” she added.

‘Religious fundamentalism’

Altman’s devotion to AI can often seem quasi-religious.

Acolytes of OpenAI believe that if they are allowed free license (and money) to construct artificial general intelligence – AI on par with or exceeding the capabilities of the human intellect – the world will be a better place.

However, the tremendous costs of that hallowed purpose compelled an agreement with Microsoft, the world’s second largest corporation, which acts for profit rather than compassion.

Microsoft committed $13 billion to OpenAI earlier this year, and Altman refocused the corporation on profitability to help justify the investment.

This provoked this month’s boardroom revolt by those who feel that the money-makers should be kept at away, including OpenAI’s head scientist.

There is “religious fundamentalism at play here,” venture capitalist Dave Morin remarked in a podcast for The Information after Altman was sacked from OpenAI only to be reinstated five days later.

AI researchers have “almost deified this technology,” he adds.

When the dispute erupted, Microsoft defended Altman, and OpenAI’s young workers all backed him up, knowing that the company’s future depended on income, not lofty views about how AI should or should not be used.

AI agent 

The year since the ChatGPT’s introduction has been marked by the tension between AI rescuing the world and destroying it.

Elon Musk, for example, signed a letter advocating for a stop in AI advancements only to launch his own business, xAI, months later, entering an increasingly congested industry.

Google, Meta, and Amazon have all included AI promises in their business introductions and made investments in AI startups.

Corporations across all industries are joining up to test AI, whether it’s a killer robot or a magic wand, usually through their cloud providers, Microsoft, Google, or Amazon, or through OpenAI.

“The time from learning that generative AI was a thing to actually deciding to spend time building applications around it has been the shortest I’ve ever seen for any type of technology,” said Rowan Curran, an analyst at Forrester Research.

However, there are still concerns that bots would “hallucinate,” producing misleading, illogical, or objectionable content, so the company’s efforts will be limited for the time being.

One such attempt is the AI agent, a kind of supercharged chatbot that can assist office workers in sorting through emails, writing memos, or having more fun when instant messaging.

Software developers brag about their abilities on the developer cooperation platform Github.

“It’s about being able to get the benefits of AI broadly disseminated to everyone,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said this month.

The rush to AI heightens fears of threats such as human extinction, as well as societal concerns such as bias, job displacement, and disinformation on a massive scale.

Regulators should focus on users making sexual deepfakes of classmates or biased AI screening out loan applications, according to industry observers.

‘Capitalists won’

Whatever the next chapter for AI is, it won’t be written without the involvement of digital behemoths like Microsoft, which could soon land a seat on the company’s board as a result of the boardroom turmoil.

“We saw yet another Silicon Valley battle between the idealists and the capitalists, and the capitalists won,” said O’Mara, the historian.

Neither will the next chapter of AI be written until Nvidia, the manufacturer of AI’s secret ingredient, the graphics processing unit, or GPU, a powerful chip required to train AI, is there.

Everyone, whether a tech titan, a startup, or a researcher, needs to get their hands on those Taiwan-made chips, which are both pricey and difficult to obtain.

Big tech companies — Microsoft, Amazon, Google — are at the front of the line.

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