Since the advent of ChatGPT, a lot of publications and people have been talking about how revolutionary the new artificial intelligence-based technology is that will kill Google’s search engine, put millions of people out of work, and fundamentally change the way the internet works.
While the platform developed by OpenAI is impressive and quite capable of performing certain tasks, we weren’t dealing with real artificial intelligence, the Skynet kind that some personalities say is “more dangerous than nuclear bombs.” ChatGPT is not a machine capable of thinking, distinguishing between right and wrong, or having the slightest level of self-awareness.
What the platform does, in short, is learn from massive amounts of information available on the internet – including Wikipedia, Twitter or Reddit – and then compile the data to provide the best response to user requests. Technology is not capable of growing itself, improving, multiplying and… taking over the world, as some fear. ChatGPT is, for now, more like a parrot repeating what it has learned. It’s got a long way to go before it becomes a tool-capable crow.
Personally, I find the AI developed by DARPA, which recently successfully flew an F-16 aircraft, more impressive.
ChatGPT is a promising platform, but it’s not putting any serious industry at risk yet. Recently, Microsoft released a version of the Bing search engine with ChatGPT integrated, and what followed is rather embarrassing. The platform has (like ChatGPT) passed on countless misinformation, invented non-existent products, insulted users, displayed racism or tried to convince some people that we live in the year 2022. It’s not exactly the search engine one can rely on for research, productivity or school.
We’ve been through similar “fevers” before, haven’t we?
It’s not the first time a new technology has been seen as something that will radically change the society we live in. Let’s take a brief look at three other relatively recent cases: virtual reality, metaverse and 5G technology.
Virtual reality has been said to revolutionise the world, but we are still waiting for that moment. It seems, however, that the market is rather imploding. In 2016 – 2017 many believed that the technology would quickly and radically change the way we work, play and consume entertainment. Demand for VR devices is declining year on year, with Meta’s (Facebook) VR division losing $13.7 billion in 2022. At the same time, Sony has reportedly drastically reduced orders for PS VR2 due to low demand.
Metavers has been said, in 2020 – 2021, to be the new “iPhone moment”. Companies that don’t catch the train will disappear from the market, fans of the new virtual environment said. But all non-video game metaverses are deserted. Examples are Horizon Worlds (Facebook), Decentraland or The Sandbox. Nor should we forget the embarrassing moment when only six people attended the EU metaverse party last year. The event cost €390,000!
5G is said to generate sustained economic growth, lead to jobs and significantly accelerate innovation. In 2023, the technology is only available in big cities, and in many places it offers speeds similar to the 4G standard. Here’s to the fact that 5G has failed to help some countries avoid recession, and much of the tech market is going through a difficult time, which has led to tens of thousands of employees being laid off.
We can’t, of course, blame all these problems on the lack of popularity of 5G (we’ve had a major pandemic and are facing a serious war in Europe), but it’s clear that the prophecies made a few years ago by the technology’s promoters have not come true.
All of these technologies bring clear benefits and have their role in society, but I think that in the future we need to look at similar announcements with more circumspection and consider them carefully before making judgements about their effects in society.