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AI and the future of work: Experts Azeem Azhar and Adam Grant weigh in

Listen:What does this new era of generative artificial intelligence mean for the future of work? On the GZERO World Podcast, Ian Bremmer sits down with tech expert Azeem Azhar and organizational psychologist Adam Grant on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to learn more about how this exciting and anxiety-inducing technology is already changing our lives, what comes next, and what the experts are still getting wrong about the most powerful technology to hit the workforce since the personal computer.

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Courtesy of Midjourney

Why Meta opened up

Last week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his intention to build artificial general intelligence, or AGI — a standard whereby AI will have human-level intelligence in all fields – and said Meta will have 350,000 high-powered NVIDIA graphics chips by the end of the year.

Zuckerberg isn’t alone in his intentions – Meta joins a long list of tech firms trying to build a super-powered AI. But he is alone in saying he wants to make Meta’s AGI open-source. “Our long-term vision is to build general intelligence, open source it responsibly, and make it widely available so everyone can benefit,” Zuckerberg said. Um, everyone?

Critics have serious concerns with the advent of the still-hypothetical AGI. Publishing such technology on the open web is a whole other story. “In the wrong hands, technology like this could do a great deal of harm. It is so irresponsible for a company to suggest it.” University of Southampton professor Wendy Hall, who advises the UN on AI issues, told The Guardian. She added that it is “really very scary” for Zuckerberg to even consider it.

Unpacking Meta’s shift in AI focus

Meta has been developing artificial intelligence for more than a decade. The company first hired the esteemed academic Yann LeCun to helm a research lab originally called FAIR, or Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research, and now called Meta AI. LeCun, a Turing Award-winning computer scientist, splits his time between Meta and his professorial post at New York University.

But even with LeCun behind the wheel, most of Meta’s AI work was meant to supercharge its existing products — namely, its social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram. That included the ranking and recommendation algorithms for the apps’ news feeds, image recognition, and its all-important advertising platform. Meta makes most of its money on ads, after all.

While Meta is a closed ecosystem for users posting content or advertisers buying ad space, they’re considerably more open on the technical side. “They're a walled garden for advertisers, but they've always pitched themselves as an open platform when it comes to tech,” said Yoram Wurmser, a principal analyst at Insider Intelligence. “They explicitly like to differentiate themselves in that regard from other tech companies, particularly Apple, which is very guarded about their software platforms.” Differentiation like that can help Meta attract talent from elsewhere in Silicon Valley, but especially from academia, where open-source publishing is the standard – as opposed to proprietary research that might never even see the light of day.

Opening the door

In building its generative AI models early last year, the decision to go open-source, publishing the code of its LLaMA language model for all to use, was born out of FOMO (fear of missing out) and frustration. In early 2023, OpenAI was getting all of the buzz for its groundbreaking chatbot ChatGPT, and Meta — a Silicon Valley stalwart that’s been in the AI game for more than a decade — reportedly felt left behind.

So LeCun proposed going open-source for its large language model (once called Genesis and renamed to the infinitely more catchy LLaMA). Meta’s legal team cautioned it could put Meta further in the crosshairs of regulators, who might be concerned about such a powerful codebase living on the open internet, where bad actors — criminals and foreign adversaries — could leverage it. Feeling the heat and the urgency of the moment for attracting talent, hype, and investor fervor, Zuckerberg agreed with LeCun, and Meta released its original LLaMA model in February 2023. Meta has since released LLaMA 2 in partnership with OpenAI backer Microsoft in July, and has publicly confirmed it’s working on the next iteration, LLaMA 3.

Pros and cons of being an open book

Meta is one of the few AI-focused firms currently making their models open-source. There’s also the US-based startup HuggingFace, which oversaw the development of a model called Bloom, and the French firm Mistral AI, which has multiple open-source models. But Meta is the only established Silicon Valley giant pursuing this high-risk route head-on.

The potential reward is clear: Open-source development might help Meta attract top engineers, and its accessibility could make it the default system for tinkerers unwilling or unable to shell out for enterprise versions of OpenAI’s GPT-4. “It also gets a lot of people to do free labor for Meta,” said David Evan Harris, a public scholar at UC Berkeley and a former research manager for responsible AI at Meta. “It gets a lot of people to play with that model, find ways to optimize it, find ways of making it more efficient, find ways of making it better.” Open-source software encourages innovation and can enable smaller companies or independent developers to build out new applications that might’ve been cost-prohibitive otherwise

But the risk is clear too: When you publish software on the internet, anyone can use it. That means criminals could use open models to perpetuate scams and fraud, and generate misinformation or non-consensual sexual material. And, of pressing interest to the US, foreign adversaries will have unfettered access too. Harris says that an open-source language model is a “dream tool” for people trying to sow discord around elections further, deceive voters, and instill distrust in reliable democratic systems.

Regulators have already expressed concern: US Sens. Josh Hawley and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to Meta last summer demanding answers about its language model. “By purporting to release LLaMA for the purpose of researching the abuse of AI, Meta effectively appears to have put a powerful tool in the hands of bad actors to actually engage in such abuse without much discernable forethought, preparation, or safeguards,” they wrote.

The Biden administration directed the Commerce Department in its October AI executive order to investigate the risk of “widely available” models. “When the weights for a dual-use foundation model are widely available — such as when they are publicly posted on the Internet — there can be substantial benefits to innovation, but also substantial security risks, such as the removal of safeguards within the model,” the order says.

Open-source purists might say that what Meta is doing is not truly open-source because it has usage restrictions: For example, they don’t allow the model to be used by companies with 700 million monthly users without a license or by anyone who doesn’t disclose “known dangers” to users. But these restrictions are merely warnings without a real method of enforcement, Harris says: “The threat of lawsuit is the enforcement.”

That might deter Meta’s biggest corporate rivals, such as Google or TikTok, from pilfering the company’s code to boost their own work, but it’s unlikely to deter criminals or malicious foreign actors.

Meta is reorienting its ambitions around artificial intelligence. Yes, Meta has bet big on the metaverse, an all-encompassing digital world powered by virtual and augmented reality technology, going so far as to change its official name from Facebook to reflect its ambitions. But the metaverse hype has been largely replaced by AI hype, and Meta doesn’t want to be left behind — certainly not for something it’s been working on for a long time.

How is the world tackling AI, Davos' hottest topic?
FULL VOD Global Stage WEF 2024

How is the world tackling AI, Davos' hottest topic?

It’s the big topic at Davos: What the heck are we going to do about artificial intelligence? Governments just can’t seem to keep up with the pace of this ever-evolving technology—but with dozens of elections scheduled for 2024, the world has no time to lose.

GZERO and Microsoft brought together folks who are giving the subject a great deal of thought for a Global Stage event on the ground in Switzerland, including Microsoft’s Brad Smith, EU Member of Parliament Eva Maydell, the UAE’s AI Minister Omar Sultan al Olama, the UN Secretary’s special technology envoy Amandeep Singh Gill, and GZERO Founder & President Ian Bremmer, moderated by CNN’s Bianna Golodryga.

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A Tetris cartridge and controller for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Man — er, teenager — beats machine

The AI boom has brought never-ending debate about the limits of human ability. What does it mean to be human? What kinds of tasks are uniquely within our purview and not replicable by machines? Well, on one front in the human vs. machine battle, someone finally beat Tetris – and yes, it was a teenager.
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An artificial intelligence sign is displayed on a phone screen, with the shape of a human face and binary code in an illustration.

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Reuters

AI will get stronger in 2024

While its lawyers are suing the world’s most powerful AI firms, reporters at The New York Times’ are simultaneously trying to make sense of this important emerging technology — namely, how rapidly it’s progressing before our eyes.

On Monday, veteran tech reporter Cade Metz suggested that AI will get stronger in innumerable ways.

“The A.I. industry this year is set to be defined by one main characteristic: a remarkably rapid improvement of the technology as advancements build upon one another, enabling A.I. to generate new kinds of media, mimic human reasoning in new ways and seep into the physical world through a new breed of robot,” Metz writes.

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Podcast: Talking AI: Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci explains what's missing in the conversation

Listen: In this edition of the GZERO World podcast, Ian Bremmer speaks with sociologist and all-around-brilliant person, Zeynep Tufekci. Tufekci has been prescient on a number of issues, from Covid causes to misinformation online. Ian caught up with her on the sidelines of the Paris Peace Forum outside, so pardon the traffic. They discuss what people are missing when they talk about artificial intelligence today. Listen to find out why her answer surprised Ian because it seems so obvious in retrospect.

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A Beatles superfan holds the first copy of the newly released last Beatles song, "Now and Then," at HMV Liverpool, on Nov. 3, 2023.

PA Images via Reuters Connect

Hard Numbers: Beatles drop "new" tune, Open AI's fortunes, Britain's supercomputer, Voters' misinformation fears

1995: Last week, the Beatles released their first song since 1995. The group’s two remaining members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and their producers relied on machine-learning technology to isolate vocal and piano tracks from a poor-quality cassette recording of a song John Lennon partially recorded decades ago. McCartney and Starr provided fresh instrumentals and finished the song, called “Now and Then.”

100 million: At OpenAI’s developer conference on Monday, the company announced that its popular chatbot ChatGPT has 100 million weekly users. It also said 2 million developers are building on its platform – including 92% of Fortune 500 companies.

$273 million: During its big AI extravaganza last week, the British government announced it would invest $273 million in a new AI-powered supercomputer built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise using chips made by NVIDIA – two American firms.

58%: A new poll by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago shows 58% of Americans think AI will amplify the spread of misinformation around the 2024 presidential election. Last week, we wrote about candidates taking a pledge to not use AI deceptively in their campaigning. Well, the results of this poll reveal that 62% of Republicans and 70% of Democrats support a pledge for candidates to avoid the technology altogether in their electioneering.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets people during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, in New Delhi, on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

ANI via Reuters Connect

Deepfake it till you make it

AI-generated songs featuring the (fake) voice of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are taking over Instagram. One video, a would-be Modi cover of a popular Bollywood song, was viewed 3.4 million times on Instagram Reels, India’s leading social video platform after it banned TikTok in 2020. The online magazine Rest of World notes that these songs, translated into India’s many regional languages, could break down a language barrier for the Hindi-speaking Modi ahead of the 2024 general election.
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