Less-than-OpenAI

So interesting seeing the reporting of this this morning. OpenAI release a new version of ChatGPT… and the focus is on the fact that the voice is flirty, and that it can do equations.

But less coverage has been given to the fact that ‘Open’ AI have been very much less than open about what’s actually going on behind this release. As Dame Wendy Hall noted in an interview this morning (1h53m into this), the company have said nothing about how this model was tested, and any guardrails that have – or have not – been put in place.

The concern is that they have slightly rushed to get this out – or a launch / promo event for it anyway – to steal a march on Google, who are due to do a big launch of their new LLM tomorrow.

The upshot? Competition is driving progress, which means that products are being shoved out into the world without the kind of diligence that one might hope is due. In short: here’s an extremely powerful tool, just go see what happens.

It’s not that there’s not the desire for regulation – the UK’s AI Safety Institute was set up precisely to provide these kind of pre-release tests, to ‘kitemark’ AI products if you will, and the EU AI Act and similar stuff in the US and Canada have all got provisions for proper transparency around testing.

But it’s not happening because… capitalism. And that is a problem.

What we need is regulation with teeth. Why? Because – as I argue in the latter part of the book – that is the only way that we will keep the agenda human-centred. It is not that these companies are in some way ‘evil’ – just that the corporate priorities (as framed by building shareholder value above all else) mean that they can present as adversarial to human flourishing.

How do we do better? To use a chemical metaphor, we need to move from the atomising effect of the universal solvent of the digitalisation of our experience, to build strong bonds that create compounds, polymers… and solid structures. That starts with communities of encounter, and meso-level democratic structures of organisation and resistance. They might be unions, churches, local councils or other forms… but we have to return to this level if we are to stand up to the constant competition-driven flow of new things been thrown at us without any sense of how they might impact how we live and work and have our being.

We failed to do that with social media; we can’t make that mistake again.


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