Artificial Intelligence (AI)

It’s Time to Believe the AI Hype

Folks, when dogs talk, we’re talking Biblical disruption. Do you think that future models will do worse on the law exams?

If nothing else, this week proves that the rate of AI progress isn’t slowing at all. Just ask the people building these models. “A lot of things have happened—internet, mobile,” says Demis Hassabis, cofounder of DeepMind and now Google’s AI czar, in a post-keynote chat at I/O. “AI is going maybe three or four times faster than those other revolutions. We’re in a period of 25 or 30 years of massive change.” When I asked Google search VP Liz Reid to name a big challenge, she didn’t say it was to keep the innovation going—instead, she cited the difficulty of absorbing the pace of change. “As the technology is early, the biggest challenge is about even what’s possible,” she says. “It’s understanding what the models are great at today, and what they are not great at but will be great at in three months or six months. The technology is changing so fast that you can get two researchers in the room who are working on the same project, and they’ll have totally different views when something is possible.”

There’s universal agreement in the tech world that AI is the biggest thing since the internet, and maybe bigger. And when non-techies see the products for themselves, they most often become believers too. (Including Joe Biden, after a March 2023 demo of ChatGPT.) That’s why Microsoft is well along on a total AI reinvention, why Mark Zuckerberg is now refocusing Meta to create artificial general intelligence, why Amazon and Apple are desperately trying to keep up, and why countless startups are focusing on AI. And because all of these companies are trying to get an edge, the competitive fervor is ramping up new innovations at a frantic page. Do you think it was a coincidence that OpenAI made its announcement a day before Google I/O?

Skeptics might try to claim that this is an industry-wide delusion, fueled by the prospect of massive profits. But the demos aren’t lying. We will eventually become acclimated to the AI marvels unveiled this week. The smartphone once seemed exotic; now it’s an appendage no less critical to our daily life than an arm or a leg. At a certain point AI’s feats, too, may not seem magical any more. But the AI revolution will change our lives, and change us, for better or worse. And we haven’t even seen GPT-5 yet.

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Time Travel

Sure, I could be wrong about AI. But consider the last time I made such a call. In 1995, I joined Newsweek—the same organ where Clifford Stoll had just dismissed the internet as a hoax—and at the end of the year argued of this new digital medium, “This Changes Everything.” Some of my colleagues thought I’d bought into overblown hype. Actually, reality exceeded my hyperbole.

In 1995, the Internet ruled. You talk about a revolution? For once, the shoe fits. “In the long run it’s hard to exaggerate the importance of the Internet,” says Paul Moritz, a Microsoft VP. “It really is about opening communications to the masses.” And 1995 was the year that the masses started coming. “If you look at the numbers they’re quoting, with the Web doubling every 53 days, that’s biological growth, like a red tide or population of lemmings,” says Kevin Kelly, executive editor of WIRED. “I don’t know if we’ve ever seen technology exhibit that sort of growth.” In fact, there’s a raging controversy over exactly how many people regularly use the Net. A recent Nielsen survey pegged the number at an impressive 24 million North Americans. During the course of the year the discussion of the Internet ranged from sex to stock prices to software standards. But the most significant aspect of the Internet has nothing to do with money or technology, really. It’s us.

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