It’s been a whole year since ChatGPT, OpenAI’s groundbreaking AI chatbot, burst onto the scene. Its rapid growth has been unprecedented, becoming the fastest-growing app in history, reaching a staggering 100 million users in just two months. Now, with its integration into platforms like Microsoft’s Bing, Skype, and Snapchat, it’s accessible to over a billion people. OpenAI is on track to generate over a billion dollars in annual revenue, marking a significant milestone in AI’s commercial success.
The speed of ChatGPT’s adoption is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Remember how it took about a decade for the internet to become mainstream? Well, ChatGPT didn’t have that problem – the digital infrastructure was already in place, ready for such an innovation. The implications of ChatGPT are far-reaching, extending well beyond quirky poetry or novelty uses. Let’s explore five major areas where this AI technology has left its mark.
1. A New Era of AI Safety and Regulation
ChatGPT has been a wake-up call for governments worldwide, highlighting not just economic, but also societal and existential challenges posed by AI. The U.S. led the charge with President Biden’s executive order setting new standards for AI safety and security, aiming to balance innovation, equity, and civil rights. The U.K. wasn’t far behind, hosting the first-ever intergovernmental AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park, the birthplace of the computer. Meanwhile, the European Union, once a frontrunner in AI regulation, seems to be struggling to keep up, especially in regulating cutting-edge models like ChatGPT. Australia, on the other hand, lags behind in both regulation and investment. The global focus on AI safety and regulation is a sign of the times – a topic that was barely on anyone’s radar five years ago.
2. The Changing Job Landscape
Before ChatGPT, fears of job displacement due to automation were largely confined to blue-collar sectors. Now, with the advent of generative AI tools, white-collar professionals, including graphic designers and lawyers, are feeling the heat. For instance, earnings in writing and editing jobs have reportedly dropped by over 10% since ChatGPT’s launch, signaling a shift in the gig economy. While the future balance of job creation and destruction by AI remains uncertain, one thing is clear: the world of work is undergoing a seismic shift.
3. The Transformation of Education
The education sector’s reaction to ChatGPT has been mixed, with some institutions banning it outright. The concern? If an AI can write essays, what happens to traditional homework? Essay writing isn’t just about producing text; it’s about honing research, communication, critical thinking, and domain-specific skills. However, AI’s potential in education is enormous. Imagine large language models like ChatGPT fine-tuned to act as personal tutors, offering targeted help and endless patience. That said, misuse is a real issue, as seen when two lawyers and a law firm were fined for submitting a court filing written by ChatGPT with fabricated legal citations.
4. Copyright Controversies
The use of large language models like ChatGPT has sparked a fierce debate over copyright issues. These AI systems are trained on vast amounts of data, including books, often without the authors’ consent. As an AI professor, I find it ironic that my own books on AI have been used in this contentious way. This has led to multiple lawsuits in the U.S., challenging whether such usage violates copyright laws. Users have even found instances where ChatGPT produced text identical to that in copyrighted books.
5. The Battle Against Misinformation
Perhaps the most immediate concern is the potential for AI tools like ChatGPT to generate convincing misinformation and disinformation. This extends beyond text to deepfake audio and video content that’s nearly impossible to distinguish from the real thing. There have already been instances of bank robberies using AI-generated voices and deepfakes influencing political elections, like the unfortunate incident in the 2023 Slovak parliamentary election. With billions of people voting in various elections next year, the combination of AI-generated content and social media’s reach could pose a serious threat to democratic processes.
As we look ahead, the trajectory of AI’s impact on society remains uncertain. If the developments of 2023 are anything to go by, we should prepare for a year of significant change and challenges in the world of AI.