The rise of artificial intelligence can be said to have happened overnight. A year ago, AI image generators were weird, while AI chatbots struggled to produce coherent sentences.
Today, entire articles can be written by AI. Microsoft has already integrated a version of it OpenAI's GPT-4 on Bing, while Google is trying to release a competitor called Bard.
These new technologies have the incredible potential to revolutionize our lives. If you ask ChatGPT about the future of technology, he tells you that artificial intelligence will lead to giant leaps forward for a techno-utopia.
As with any new technology, there are hidden risks, some of which we don't yet understand or can't even imagine. However, much of the discussion surrounding artificial intelligence focuses on the future development of the technology, what it could it does if it moves towards real intelligence. These are important to consider, but even if every tech company stops trying to push their AI, these technologies can already cause a lot of problems in their existing form.
Bing made headlines by integrating a version of ChatGPT into its search engine. No one expected Microsoft to outdo Google, which immediately announced the Google Bard. These companies believe that AI is the future of search, but it could just as well be the end of search.
Websites that rely on page views for ad revenue may find their content plundered by bots that deliver the information directly to users, disrupting their primary revenue stream. This would lead to a massive collapse of the digital advertising market.
Smaller sites would be the first to go down, but huge ones like Facebook could follow. When asked about it in an interview with The Verge, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said little about preventing such a scenario. However, he said Microsoft had looked into it.
Even if the basic functionality of search engines remains intact during this change, artificial intelligence may render them useless.
Already, the Internet is filled with duplicates with different SEO, so you have to wade through endless stories before you find what you want. Think you're looking for a recipe you read a year ago. You won't find her in the place she was.
No human can achieve SEO goals with the precision of an AI, which means this spam could quickly grow online, ruining your search results.
It is not known whether search companies intend to respond to such a crisis, especially since they seem committed to promoting the very technology that could destroy them.
Artificial intelligence could make the internet useless
Currently, productive AI language models are being trained across the entire, mostly text-based, Internet. These models then produce new text that is ostensibly their own. So soon most of the internet will be filled with parrots and parlapipes.
It's already hard enough to use the internet without encountering bots and SEO spam, along with plenty of text created by real people.
So add to all of this the infinite amount of artificial intelligence text. The mix could make it very difficult to find anything useful online. Matthew Kirschenbaum, professor of digital studies at the University of Maryland, warns of this very scenario in The Atlantic, writing:
"All these phenomena, to say nothing of Viagra spam, text functions — more text than we can imagine will clog servers, telecommunications cables and data centers."
Artificial intelligence could accelerate climate change
Humanity faces an existential threat from climate change, and time is running out to reverse carbon emissions before the worst-case scenario occurs.
Artificial intelligence, with its ability to make sense of complex and disparate data points, could be a critical tool in innovating new solutions to avert the worst of the disaster. Even now, it can help make entire companies more energy efficient by identifying wasteful practices and automating energy use.
However, it could also take us faster down the road to destruction.
AI may be able to help us, but it uses massive amounts of energy to operate. As AI models get bigger and bigger, energy use will grow with them. Some of the current AI models draw as little energy as it takes to power a cell phone to train themselves, while others use the annual equivalent of an average United States household for a single training session (via The New Stack).
Before we rush into mass adoption of AI, it might be worth spending some time figuring out a more energy-efficient way to do it.
Artificial intelligence could lead to further control of our lives by big tech companies and governments
Now that we've seen the effects of social media, we understand that the companies that allowed us to connect with the world have exploited our data to build empires.
Google, Facebook and others have spent years studying our habits and deliberately manipulate our emotions to keep us on our toes (via NBC). Now that artificial intelligence is becoming mainstream, its capabilities will empower companies that wish to exert more influence on our lives for their profit.
From advertising, which can now appear within a block of text on Bing, to smart homes, which can examine our living habits, artificial intelligence could be the next frontier for privacy.
Meanwhile, the US government is increasingly interested in silencing big tech, potentially forcing them to hand over their data only to the government.
Suppose the much-discussed bill RESTRICT become legislation. In this case, it may be in the financial interest of tech companies to forge deeper ties with the government, providing greater access to private data for their own benefit.
Artificial intelligence is moving too fast for us to know exactly where we are on the progress curve. The huge jumps seen with ChatGPT may be anomalies or the beginning of a new Moore's Law.
In any case, these programs are more than capable of causing damage on a massive scale.