What is Generative AI, the technology behind OpenAI’s ChatGPT?

Generative artificial intelligence has become a buzzword this year, catching public attention and prompting a rush from Microsoft and Alphabet to launch products featuring the technology that they believe will transform the way work is done.
Here’s everything you need to know about this technology.

What is Generative AI?

Like other forms of artificial intelligence, generative AI learns from past data to take action. It creates brand new content – a text, an image, even computer code – based on this training, rather than simply categorizing or identifying data like other AIs.

The most well-known generative AI application is ChatGPT, a chatbot released by Microsoft-backed OpenAI late last year. The AI ​​powering it is known as a large language model because it takes a text prompt and writes a human-like response from it.

GPT-4, a newer model announced by OpenAI this week, is “multimodal” in that it can recognize images as well as text. OpenAI’s president demonstrated Tuesday how it could take a photo of a hand-drawn mockup for a website it wanted to create and turn it into a real one.

What is it good for?

Aside from demonstrations, companies are already using generative AI.

For example, the technology is helpful for creating a first draft of marketing copy, although it may need cleaning up because it’s not perfect. An example is from CarMax Inc, which used a version of OpenAI technology to aggregate thousands of customer reviews to help buyers make a used car purchase decision.

Generative AI can also take notes during a virtual meeting. It can design and personalize emails and create slide presentations. Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc’s Google each demonstrated these features in product announcements this week.

What is wrong with that?

Nothing, although there are concerns about the potential misuse of the technology.

School systems have worried about students turning in AI-created essays, undermining the hard work it takes them to learn. Cybersecurity researchers have also raised concerns that generative AI could allow bad actors, even governments, to produce far more disinformation than before.

At the same time, the technology itself is error-prone. Actual inaccuracies confidently touted by the AI, known as “hallucinations,” and responses that seem unpredictable, like declarations of love to a user, are all reasons companies wanted to test the technology before making it widely available.

Is it just about Google and Microsoft?

These two companies are at the forefront of research and investment in large language models and are the largest to integrate generative AI into widely used software such as Gmail and Microsoft Word. But they are not alone.

Large companies like Salesforce Inc, as well as smaller ones like Adept AI Labs, are either developing their own competing AI or bundling technologies from others to empower users through software.

How is Elon Musk involved?

He was one of the co-founders of OpenAI along with Sam Altman. But the billionaire left the startup’s board of directors in 2018 to avoid a conflict of interest between the work of OpenAI and the AI ​​research of Telsa Inc – the electric vehicle manufacturer he heads.
Musk has raised concerns about the future of AI and has advocated for a regulator to ensure the technology’s development serves the public interest.

“It’s quite a dangerous technology. I’m afraid I did some things to speed it up,” he said towards the end of Tesla Inc’s Investor Day event earlier this month.

“Tesla is doing a good job on the AI, I don’t know, it’s stressing me out, I’m not sure what else to say.”


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