Tech in 2023: AI is Coming at Us Fast, But Change Is Slower than We Think

Generative AI is changing the game, but there’s still time to catch up

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7:29 PM HKT, Tue December 26, 2023 3 mins read

Reviewing the tech developments of 2023, generative AI undoubtedly comes out on top, sitting at the intersection of various different global interests. Whilst digital connectivity, sustainable climate tech, and quantum computing continue to make great strides, nothing has captured the imagination of thousands of venture capitalists and inspired the trepidation of millions of workers around the globe like generative AI. Collins Dictionary has even gone so far as to crown AI as its word of the year.

Generative AI, a subsegment of artificial intelligence, differentiates itself by its ability to create unstructured content such as video, text, audio, images, code, or even simulations, all based on prompts. Building from existing tech such as machine learning, generative AI has fundamentally changed the game by integrating itself into the production and organization process of various industries. Its ability to summarize, classify, and draft within seconds presents a very real “intern-alternative” at work.

And this is indeed the case in China, where Sequoia Capital has backed “Harvey” AI, which is specifically designed for usage in the legal industry. The AI has already started to be used among leading “magic circle” law firms in China. However, its usage is mainly limited in scope to initial research and text summarization, as anything requiring application of judgement in real-life scenarios could result in AI hallucinations. Yet the value of replacing technical and repetitive work is clear, and a new model of efficiency optimization has arrived.

Considering that it may be the elixir capable of sparking the 4th Industrial Revolution and a reshuffling of power on the global stage, it is essential to decide what role generative AI will have in our lives, whether on an individual, corporate, or national level.

The increasingly editable nature of our lifestyles and the products we consume begs the question of to what extent we want AI to run our lives.

On the individual level, as the fastest ever app to reach a 100 million users, ChatGPT’s unprecedented adoption is an indicator of the curiosity and demand we have for a taste of a sci-fi like future. However, the increasingly editable nature of our lifestyles and the products we consume begs the question of to what extent we want AI to run our lives.

As I recently played around on a new shopping site entirely co-created with AI, it was hard for me to tell how much of my shopping basket was indeed due to my unique sense of fashion, and how much of it was down to just being placed correctly under one of their consumer profiles. As these tools collect a sizable data pool on all of us, it’s still unclear how our rights and privacy are to be protected in the advent of this new age.

On a corporate level, 2023 has been the year of experimentation and evaluation of what generative AI can do, instead of widespread application. Though there are a myriad of job postings related to “AI engineers” and “AI managers.” Companies are still in the stage of developing how AI can be integrated into the existing lines of production without much disruption or resistance from frontline workers. Even amongst freelancers, for whom corporate bureaucracies don’t get in the way of adopting new tools, only 20% of respondees to a survey by freelancing platform Upwork said they use AI regularly in their work. Still, that’s higher than the 9% rate found in the non-freelance workforce. And indeed it’s prudent for companies to take a slow approach, as we’ve seen AI’s reliability and efficacy being questioned due to its hallucinations.

On a national level, approaches towards the development of AI are illustrative of a country’s ambitions on the global stage. According to the “gross data product” index developed by Harvard Business Review, the sophistication of a country’s AI development will depend critically on its ability to amass a sizeable data pool, and this in turn depends on the more fundamental level of data consumption, mobile connectivity. Unsurprisingly, US and China have both invested heavily in the technology and expressed their desires to become the global AI leader. The recent Bletchley Park Summit in London, where senior representatives of the US, China, UK, and EU gathered for the first time to agree on an AI governance framework, marks the beginning of what’s to come in 2024. In a game where you have too much to lose, it’s better to be setting the rules than simply enrolling to be a player.

Whilst the rapid development of AI might seem daunting, and many of us feel like we’ve arrived too late in the game, I think it’s important to remember that it’s still early days. While generative AI sits at the cusp of a working revolution, AI is still code written by a real person. Someone with their own biases and assumptions built it, and it’s still an unfinished product. So there’s no better time to start experimenting and utilizing AI as a tool, to make yourself a more powerful human being next year than at the end of 2023.

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