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From AI’s Playful Provocations to Google’s Visionary Gaze: The Unstoppable March of Artificial Intelligence

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Steven Levy has

The Era of TaAI-allcreator.com">king AI Seriously Has Arrived

Experts in technology often talk about "inflection points," moments when emerging tech completely reshuffles the playing field, introducing both challenges and chances. However, it could be said that what was once heralded as a pivotal moment in tech evolution has now become just another start to the week.

This week witnessed OpenAI making headlines by debunking the speculation that it would release an AI-based search tool or the anticipated GPT-5 model. Instead, on Monday, the company surprised everyone with the introduction of a groundbreaking new model named GPT-4o, which will be accessible at no cost. This innovative model is designed for interactions that feel eerily human-like, capable of processing and responding through text, voice, and visual inputs. The demonstration revealed a chatbot that not only displayed a playful and at times challenging demeanor but also possessed a vast range of knowledge akin to a digital encyclopedia. The CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman, succinctly captured the essence of the presentation with a tweet: “Her.” This reference to the film in which the lead character falls for a charming and flirtatious chatbot seemed particularly poignant coming from Altman, given his company appears to have turned the fictional concept into reality, treating the film's script as if it were a prototype. Adding to the astonishment was another demonstration by OpenAI, showcasing one chatbot interpreting a visual scene while another inquired about it. This left Greg Brockman, a co-founder of OpenAI, in a somewhat embarrassing situation as the chatbots critiqued his style and home decoration, playfully ribbing him with songs on these topics.

On Tuesday, a pivotal moment occurred. During its yearly I/O developers conference, Google unveiled several AI breakthroughs, notably the introduction of an updated iteration of its most advanced AI model, Gemini Pro. Additionally, a new project under development, known as Project Astra, was revealed. Similar to OpenAI's GPT-4o, this versatile chatbot is capable of continuously processing visual and auditory data, allowing it to engage in discussions about what it perceives. With its vast knowledge, it can provide detailed responses to anything it observes, whether it's identifying a glitch in software code, determining which component of a speaker is the tweeter, or, as demonstrated in a video, locating your misplaced glasses by telling you exactly where they are. It can also create narratives or musical compositions about any subject you indicate. Google suggested that Astra could eventually be integrated into smart glasses, offering an unparalleled level of life documentation. This could enable it to answer queries like, “What occurred during my discussion with the man in the blue suit last January?” “What was that sound my car made last week?” or “Have people been treating me better recently, or is it all in my head?”

The perception of this trend isn't universally positive. As the immediate surprise of ChatGPT diminishes, skeptics and dissenters are voicing their opinions. A particular viewpoint posits that OpenAI and Google might be offering more illusion than substance, claiming that the advancement of Large Language Models (LLMs) has reached a standstill. According to this perspective, they initially seemed impressive, but one shouldn't anticipate significant enhancements anytime soon. Thus, the message is to ease concerns about an algorithm replacing your employment.

Critics argue that the highly touted AI revolution of the 2020s is nothing but a farce. Just a few months back, there was fear that these technologies could pose existential threats—yet, they struggle with basic math! This is the rallying call of the skeptics. The skepticism was effectively captured in a recent New York Times essay by Julia Angwin, a distinguished journalist who, I believe, might one day look back on her piece with regret. Her article, titled “Press Pause on the Silicon Valley Hype Machine,” might end up being remembered in the same way as Clifford Stoll’s infamous 1995 Newsweek op-ed. Stoll, an astronomer turned computer expert, famously dismissed the internet as a fleeting trend, mocking the idea that it would transform how we book flights, reserve tables at restaurants, or consume news. He even argued, with a sense of finality, that the internet would fail at providing simple historical facts, like the date of the Battle of Trafalgar—asserting it was something you could never find online.

I must emphasize my respect for Angwin as a knowledgeable and probing journalist in the technology field. However, I find myself perplexed by her endeavor to discredit AI, based on a study that purportedly refutes OpenAI's claim that GPT-4 excels in the Uniform Bar Exam, achieving scores within the top 10%. She references a researcher who contends that the AI only performed on par with 48% of humans who have dedicated three years to academic study and months of round-the-clock preparation to pass this exam. This situation is reminiscent of a tale where an individual brings a companion to a comedy show featuring a talking dog. Although the dog articulately delivers its act, the companion remains unimpressed, criticizing the quality of the humor rather than acknowledging the novelty of a speaking dog.

Rogers Reece

Louryn Strampe

Brendan I. Koerner

Gilbertson, Scott

Ladies and gentlemen, imagine a scenario where dogs could communicate verbally; it would be an upheaval of Biblical proportions. Does the prospect of future generations performing poorly on legal examinations come to mind?

This week alone has underscored the unrelenting momentum of artificial intelligence advancements. The architects behind these AI systems can affirm this pace. DeepMind's cofounder, who also serves as Google's AI chief, Demis Hassabis, reflected during a discussion following his keynote at I/O, "We've witnessed significant milestones— the advent of the internet, the proliferation of mobile technology," he noted. "Yet, AI's evolution is unfolding at a rate three to four times quicker than these previous shifts. We're amidst a 25 to 30-year epoch of profound transformation." When inquiring about major hurdles with Liz Reid, Google's Vice President of search, her response didn't dwell on sustaining innovation but rather highlighted the challenge in keeping up with the rapid evolution of technology. "Given the nascent stage of this technology, the real test lies in grasping the realm of possibilities," she mentioned. "It's about recognizing what the models excel at now versus what they will excel at in a few months. The pace at which the technology evolves is so brisk that two experts working on identical projects can hold completely divergent opinions on when certain capabilities will be realized."

The consensus within the technology industry is that artificial intelligence (AI) represents the most significant development since the advent of the internet, if not surpassing it. This view often extends to those outside the tech sphere once they witness AI technologies firsthand. For instance, Joe Biden became a proponent following a demonstration of ChatGPT in March 2023. This widespread enthusiasm explains why Microsoft is deeply engaged in an AI overhaul, why Mark Zuckerberg is directing Meta's efforts towards building artificial general intelligence, and why giants like Amazon and Apple are fervently working to stay in the race. Moreover, the surge of startups dedicated to AI underscores the sector's focus. The intense competition among these companies is fueling a rapid pace of innovation, suggesting strategic timing in major announcements, such as OpenAI's disclosure just one day prior to Google I/O, is likely no mere happenstance.

Critics might argue that widespread enthusiasm for this technology is nothing more than a collective fantasy, driven by the potential for enormous financial gain. However, the demonstrations speak for themselves. In time, we will adjust to the AI innovations introduced this week, much like how smartphones transitioned from a novelty to an essential part of our existence, as indispensable as a limb. Eventually, the achievements of AI may lose their wonder, but the impact of the AI transformation on our lives and on ourselves will be profound, whether for good or bad. Moreover, we're still awaiting the arrival of GPT-5.

Time Travel

Admittedly, my predictions about AI might not be accurate. However, reflect on the previous occasion when I made a similar projection. Back in 1995, I became a part of Newsweek—the very platform where Clifford Stoll had recently ridiculed the internet as a fad—and by the year's close, I was advocating for the transformative power of this emerging digital platform, stating, “This Changes Everything.” Several of my peers believed I was getting swept up in exaggerated excitement. In truth, the outcome surpassed even my own bold statements.

In 1995, the digital world was dominated by the Internet. This period marked a genuine revolution, with the Internet becoming a pivotal force in global communication. "The significance of the Internet cannot be overstated in the long term," observes Microsoft Vice President Paul Moritz. "It's fundamentally about democratizing communication for everyone." This was the year when the general public began to engage with the Internet en masse. Kevin Kelly, the executive editor of WIRED, remarked on the explosive growth of the Web, noting, "The figures being mentioned, with the Web's size doubling every 53 days, resemble the exponential growth seen in nature, similar to a red tide or a surge in a lemming population. This ai-allcreator.com">kind of expansion in technology is unprecedented." However, the exact number of regular Internet users is a matter of debate. A Nielsen study recently estimated that there are 24 million users in North America alone. Over the year, conversations about the Internet covered a wide range of topics, from sexuality to financial markets to software norms. Yet, the most crucial aspect of the Internet's rise has little to do with financial gains or technological advances. It's about the people.

Reece Rogers

Louryn Strampe

Brendan I. Koerner

Gilbertson, Scott

Futurist Paul Saffo believes that the Internet surpasses all other forms of media in facilitating human connections. He argues that interacting with others online is more engaging than the most exciting video games or the latest information available. Consider the array of activities possible on the Internet. You can swiftly send emails to friends and colleagues around the globe, usually free of charge, in mere seconds. You can immerse yourself in complex, role-playing games known as "MUDs," adopting the identity of a fantastical alter ego and engaging in virtual romance with the avatars created by others. You might join a Usenet newsgroup to vehemently argue with someone who disagreed with your take on a recent "Deep Space Nine" episode. With a browser like Netscape Navigator, you can explore the Web, a vast network of interconnected publishing efforts that serve as a testament to human creativity, offering everything from car shopping to updates on Madonna's personal life. Creating your own website grants you access to a global audience, putting you on par with major corporations like Sears, IBM, or even the U.S. government. Indeed, not launching your own website in 1995 could potentially jeopardize your relevance.

Unfortunate developments for those resistant to technological progress: the barrage of exaggerated claims about this emerging platform isn't going away anytime soon. Despite the fact that the majority of Americans haven't even started using it, much less exploring its depths. The year 1996 could change that. "This year may have felt significant for the Internet, but just wait for what's coming," declares John Barlow from the EFF. "The real show is just about to begin."

Inquire About Anything

Jessi queries, "How do you perceive David Autor's claim that artificial intelligence will benefit the middle class?"

Thank you for your inquiry, Jessi. You're asking about a piece by the economist David Autor titled, “AI Could Actually Help Rebuild the Middle Class.” In this work, Autor offers an optimistic, though somewhat theoretical, outlook on how AI might empower individuals who previously lacked the means to engage in significant business decision-making. He suggests that high-paying roles are often reserved for decision-makers, and intelligent individuals who have not had the chance to demonstrate their capabilities could now ascend to these positions. As summarized by Gemini 1.5 Pro: “Autor imagines a future in which AI augments human abilities, allowing people with mid-level skills to undertake tasks that were once the domain of highly specialized professionals in areas such as healthcare, legal analysis, or computer programming. This shift could not only open doors for career advancement but also potentially result in better pay and increased job satisfaction.”

Rogers Reece

Louryn Strampe

Brendan I. Koerner

Gilbertson, Scott

Before responding to Jessi's inquiry, it's crucial to stress that the full implications of the AI revolution are still uncertain. However, this doesn't imply our predictions are purely guesswork. Autor, a distinguished MIT professor with a focus on labor and inequality, is one of the knowledgeable figures in this field whose insights are valued and should be regarded with importance.

Despite not having AI to match his expertise, I remain doubtful. My perspective is that AI might actually centralize control even further among those already in power, by equipping them with the necessary data to broaden their influence. While it's conceivable that AI could open doors for a few individuals to enter these elite circles, I'm not convinced it will pave the way for creating millions of new roles for a vast array of decision-makers. Autor himself acknowledges that his optimistic outlook hinges on significant investments aimed at realizing this vision, a scenario I find unlikely. It's possible that AI will introduce new job opportunities that soften the blow of its impact on existing jobs, yet I'm skeptical about its ability to bridge the gap in income inequality as Autor envisions. It seems we're headed for an uncertain future.

Send your inquiries to mail@wired.com. Please include "ASK LEVY" in the email subject.

Apocalyptic Gazette

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida enacts legislation banning initiatives aimed at addressing climate change or acknowledging its reality. The question remains, how will they inform the sea?

Finally, Here's a Summary of All Announcements from Google I/O.

Google's comprehensive adoption of AI will transform the way we search indefinitely.

Reece Rogers

Name: Louryn Strampe

Brendan I. Koerner

Gilbert Scott

What's the method for neutralizing a drone? Utilizing laser weaponry is the way to go!

What unfolds as a middle-aged male journalist adopts a covert identity as the girlfriend of an OnlyFans influencer.

Announcement: Please note that Plaintext will not be published next week as we begin the US holiday weekend. We look forward to reconnecting in June.

Ensure you don't miss out on upcoming editions exclusive to subscribers of this column. Take advantage of a special 50% discount for Plaintext readers and subscribe to WIRED today.

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