Tech Tonic | You may disagree with Meera Murti, but she is right


“Some creative jobs will probably be lost, but maybe they shouldn’t have been to begin with.” OpenAI Chief Technology Officer Meera Murati made this statement while addressing an audience at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, which turned out to be true and angered some self-proclaimed ‘experts’ on social media.

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Mira Murat

Some are calling him insensitive, while others are questioning Murati's ability to judge creative work. Both sides have valid arguments behind this sudden and rather unexpected decision. And while any debate can only promote the notion of delaying the inevitable, there is little scope to change the reality that awaits us.

There is a certain reason behind what Murati said. That is why I agree with him too, because I have a broader view of how artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities are evolving. And that too quite rapidly. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, often talks about AGI or Artificial General Intelligence. The key differences between AI and AGI, as things are conceived, involve scope, relevance, capabilities, and nature.

Essentially, AGI is expected to be able to understand and reason, and unlike the often specific nature of generative AI, its scope will be broad. The idea is that it will mimic human behaviour as well as have the ability to learn context and reason, which is what AI chatbots can do now, for more complex problem-solving.

The crucial difference – the ability to learn emotions and contextual awareness, just like humans. In fact, Altman is not alone. Now spun off from OpenAI co-founder and former chief scientist Ilya Sutskever's start-up, Safe Superintelligence aims to create exactly what the name suggests – a super-intelligent machine that is better than anything we have seen so far, with the important caveat being that it must not be dangerous as a result of its abilities.

What Sutskever's team at OpenAI did is nothing short of pivotal. OpenAI's ChatGPT online chatbot started a chain of events, bringing generative AI into our lives in the form of a talking chatbot, a writing assistant, generating code, drafting email replies for us, taking notes of meetings and creating an image or music track as we please. It's logical that I wouldn't bet against Sutskever or the SAFE superintelligence achieving what they set out to achieve.

Murati is hinting at something. I am not entirely sure that AI will take away the jobs of “Creative Directors”, “Art Directors”, “Chief Creative Officers” or anyone below in the hierarchy. But a change is coming, even if temporary, as organizations will surely experiment with powerful technology that will replace a person and his salary (technical solutions are coming at a fraction of that cost). These are the developments with AI that I mentioned, which leads me not to dismiss her comments.

AI company Anthropic's Cloud 3.5 model, released a few days ago, often matches and mostly surpasses OpenAI's best-ever GPT-4o, Google's Gemini 1.5 Pro and Meta's Llama 3 (specifically, 400b) in benchmarks. Any benchmark score should be taken with a liberal dose of salt, and in the real world, Cloud 3.5 is an improvement on multi-layered workflows, understanding data as charts and a new functionality called Artifacts that lets you transform generated results before taking them to their intended destination or recipient.

When OpenAI introduced Sora earlier this year, the initial teasers of this text-to-video generation tool looked incredibly detailed and professional. Although it hasn’t been released for everyone to use just yet, one example that emerged from its closed group testing leads us to Toys R Us, a company known for its retail presence focused on toys. They have created a brand film, partially made using Sora. They went back in time.

“Sora can create videos up to one minute long with realistic scenes and multiple characters, all generated from text instruction. Imagine the excitement of a young Charles Lazarus, founder of Toys “R” Us in the early 1930s, creating and visualizing his dreams for our iconic brand and beloved mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe,” is how the retail chain explains this brand film. Is Muratti right?

Sora isn't alone. Runway has launched a Gen-3 alpha, with advanced functionality at your beginner's fingertips – text to video, image to video, advanced camera controls and something called a multi-motion brush, it's all there. The web browser is for now, the iOS app will arrive sometime in the coming weeks.

We are still a long way from having a clear picture of how the AI ​​landscape will ultimately stabilize, as well as what impact it will have on jobs. Assumptions vary depending on who you ask. But there are no two ways about it. A report this May by the McKinsey Global Institute suggested that by the year 2030, 12 million workers in the US alone will need to find new jobs as generative AI takes away their previous jobs.

I think the next big battle will be between tech and AI companies on one side and artists, creators and everyone else whose data on the internet forms the data sets used to train AI models on the other. It is this data that makes AI what it is today (it is, by definition, data hungry), and what it will be in the future. Some regulation against uncontrolled, predatory use of AI is the only hope to slow down this relentless juggernaut. Maybe bring some balance.

It might be good to underline this chapter of our relationship with technology by reading a quote from author Joanna Maciejewska a few days ago. It simply says, “I want AI to do my laundry and wash dishes so I can do art and writing, not AI to do my art and writing so I can do my laundry and wash dishes.” We are going down a completely different path. Apparently the next GPT model will have PhD-level intelligence.

Vishal Mathur is technology editor of Hindustan Times. Tech Tonic is a weekly column that looks at the impact of personal technology on the way we live, and vice versa. Views expressed are personal.

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