AI will ‘lead to a tipping point in human evolution,’ expert says
Nina Schick, author, advisor, and speaker specializing in generative AI, joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the artificial intelligence hype, the tech race to innovate in AI, key trends, ethical and regulatory concerns, and what it means for society.
- So let's talk to Nina Schick. She is an expert in this area. She's made a lot of predictions about where this is going to be felt in our everyday lives.
Nina, it's great to have you here and have your voice on this topic. So just sort of set the scene for us. Why is this phase of artificial intelligence so different from what we have had before?
NINA SCHICK: Well, essentially this all comes down to a new type of artificial intelligence, so-called generative AI. Last year was really the coronation year for generative AI. And now we are starting to see its real-world applications.
It's a type of artificial intelligence that can actually create. It can create anything that we thought thus far was unique to human intelligence or creativity, whether that is interacting with us in a chatbot form, whether that is generating new content, whether it's images, video, it is actually, I think, going to become a foundational new infrastructure for human communication, information, and content generation. So when you start to see all this hype happening, it really is because this technology is going to lead to a tipping point in human evolution, I think. The only analogy I can think of is that it is like the birth of the internet except it's probably even more profound.
- OK, and so that kind of brings me to my question here because I was actually looking at one of the polls that you posed to the Twitter audience and talking specifically about two big players because of the investments that they've made, one of them being, of course, Microsoft and ChatGPT there, and then the other in Google. And, of course, that was focusing more in on search. But is any of the generative AI investments that we've seen thus far, is it necessarily a zero-sum game?
NINA SCHICK: Absolutely not because there is so much abundance to go around. But when I made my predictions for key trends this year, one of the predictions I made, which is already coming true, is that all the big tech titans are going to want a piece of the action. And how they've been doing that so far is by collaborating with some of these generative AI startups or smaller companies, now probably not that small anymore, the kind of OpenAIs, the DeepMinds, the Anthropics of this space.
And when OpenAI released ChatGPT-- it's been two months, by the way. It's been two months and it's the most popular application in the history of the world, with over 100 million users. It was very clear that Microsoft understood that this technology, which, by the way, is only one application of one type of generative model, a large language model, that this was going to be something that hundreds of millions of people would interface with this year.
No wonder that the Googles and the Baidus are realizing, oh my goodness, if we don't ship a product in this space soon, this is going to be monopolized by Microsoft, which is why you see this mad rush. I mean, Microsoft announced its extra $10 billion investment in OpenAI a few weeks ago. Now they've already integrated into Office, into Teams. It's going to be integrated into Bing.
You see Google yesterday announcing that they're going to do the same. You see Baidu saying they're going to do the same. So it is a real race, like I said, amongst the tech titans. And remember, the bigger picture is that this is only one application of one type of generative AI model.
- So, Nina, to go back a little bit to what we've been seeing in the markets and everything that had a whisper of AI has gone crazy this year, you likened it to the beginning of the internet. Of course, a lot of companies that were around in the beginning of the internet are no longer around. We had the dotcom crash. Is this enthusiasm then on the flip side going to be accompanied by a crash, where a lot of these players maybe are going to shake out?
NINA SCHICK: Absolutely. I think there is no doubt. I mean, when ChatGPT was released, given that it was such an immense cultural moment, a few weeks ago, there were all kinds of memes circulating about how investors were suddenly backing out of their crypto and metaverse investments and just rushing towards anything with the name with the words "AI" or "generative AI" in it. And that hype cycle was another one of my predictions for this year, that this hype cycle, this investment is going to turn into an investment hysteria. And there are, no doubt, going to be lots of companies that fail, lots of people that lose their money.
But ultimately, just like the internet, is generative AI long term going to be a game changer? Without a doubt. And are there going to be companies built in the space, which are going to be the next trillion-dollar companies of the world? Again, I think so, without a doubt. However, right now, sorting the wheat from the chaff is going to be the order of the day when it comes to investing.
- So in terms of way forward from here, we have to focus in on the ethics of generative AI as well and where that really enters into the frame for businesses, as well as for individual use.
NINA SCHICK: Absolutely. Again, this is such a profound moment for society because these systems are fundamentally going to change the nature of the information ecosystem. They're fundamentally going to change the content and information we interact with on a daily basis. So as the hysteria grows and increasingly companies enter this space who are desperate to bring their products to market, one of the side effects is that you're going to see a loosening, shall we say, of ethical guardrails or safe deployment of their technology. And you've already seen stories of how certain companies in the space, voice cloning companies, quick to want to ship their product, didn't put any safety rails in place, and their technology is now being misused by 4chan users to make Emma Watson, the famous actor, read "Mein Kampf" in an AI-generated voice. So you're going to see lots more of that.
And broadly speaking, however, the philosophical and societal implications of how generative AI is going to shape our society are going to be the major questions we're going to be debating in the next 5 to 10 years, questions like is AI going to augment or automate us? How is AI going to change the world of work? Who should control these all-mighty systems? And is it OK if private companies or a few well-resourced actors accrue so much wealth, influence, and power, much more than that of an elected nation-state? These are the questions, I think, that are going to be playing out on a broader societal level, like I said, in the next 5 to 10 years.
- And, Nina, just quickly here, you're also an expert on this kind of stuff, deepfakes and the like. Do we have any power as individuals, as consumers to even know what's real and what's not in this new world?
NINA SCHICK: So you touch upon one of the most important existential points. And that is that as the information ecosystem becomes inundated with AI-generated content, basically anything we interact with can be generated by AI. It can be synthetically created.
The question of can we even trust anything anymore, even if things like video, which we tend to see as an extension of our own perception because they're so difficult to manipulate, that is going to become an existential question. So we have to look at technologies that are going to help us navigate this kind of inundation of the information ecosystem with synthetic media. And we have to look at things like authentication, transparency in all content, whether it's synthetically generated or not. Otherwise, I mean, if there is no trust in the entire digital ecosystem, then that's an existential risk, not only from a political perspective, but from the perspective of every business and every individual as well.
- Nina Schick, author, advisor, speaker, specializing in all things generative AI, good to see you this morning. Thanks for the perspective. Appreciate it.