Artificial intelligence

Rishi Sunak can’t take the credit for falling inflation

Even the best-run companies have occasional leadership crises. But if you asked ChatGPT to come up with a blockbuster boardroom-bloodbath movie scenario, I doubt it would propose anything as extreme as this week’s events in its own San Francisco-based parent company, OpenAI. Chief executive and co-founder Sam Altman was fired last week for failing to be ‘consistently candid’ with OpenAI’s board, though no one was prepared to say what he had not been candid about. By Monday he had a new job leading AI research at Microsoft, OpenAI’s 49 per cent shareholder. One inside source claimed 743 of OpenAI’s 770 staff had signed a letter supporting him and many of

Was Rishi Sunak’s AI summit a success?

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This week the prime minister hosted his landmark AI summit at Bletchley Park which wrapped up with an interview with Elon Musk, who warned that AI will one day render all jobs obsolete. The who’s who of AI were in attendance over the two days as well the likes of Kamala Harris and Ursula von der Leyen, but what was actually achieved? Oscar Edmondson speaks to James Heale and Madhumita Murgia, AI editor at the Financial Times. 

Will we even notice if AI replaces screenwriters?

We are edging into the third month of the strike by the Writers Guild of America, called because of shrivelling residual royalty payments from streaming movies and TV, as well as concern about AI such as ChatGPT being used to generate story ideas – and indeed to write scripts. Hollywood’s screenwriters have now been joined by the 150,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild, which was demonstrated very visibly by the cast of Oppenheimer walking out of its UK premiere last week. ‘We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines,’ said union president Fran Drescher. Susan Sarandon has said of AI: ‘I would hope that

Should we fear AI? James W. Phillips and Eliezer Yudkowsky in conversation

James W. Phillips was a special adviser to the prime minister for science and technology and a lead author on the Blair-Hague report on artificial intelligence. Eliezer Yudkowsky is head of research at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute. On SpectatorTV this week they talk about the existential threat of AI. This is an edited transcript of their discussion. JAMES W. PHILLIPS: When we talk about things like superintelligence and the dangers from AI, much of it can seem very abstract and doesn’t sound very dangerous: a computer beating a human at Go, for example. When you talk about superintelligence what do you mean, exactly, and how does it differ from

I know how AI will bring us down

On the smooth marble concourse by the exit doors at Heathrow Airport I met my first cleaning robot. It was purple, made by a company called Mitie and about waist-height – the size and shape of a park bin. It ran on wheels, dragging a grubby mop behind it, and it was polite. As my small son and I stumbled into its path, it backed off smoothly like a well-trained butler. I apologised to it instinctively, after which it appeared to follow us. My son said: ‘Mum, it likes us!’ Then, when we reached the door: ‘Mum, can we take it home?’ Then: ‘Mum, wait! I don’t think it wants

Will AI make Tinder redundant?

The world is home to 7.8 billion people. Roughly one in 14 of these people (530 million) are on Tinder. Badoo, the second most popular dating app, has ‘only’ 318 million users. Tinder is the most popular dating app in the world, by far. Now, though, a new challenger appears to be emerging. Unlike Badoo and other less robust dating apps, all of whom try to offer a variation of what Tinder provides, this competitor offers something completely different. You see, this new dating app, a next generation dating app, plans to inject artificial intelligence into matchmaking. Boasting a punchy tagline, ‘less talk, more action,’ Teaser AI, due to be released this month,

Letters: The real AI threat

Irreligious tolerance Sir: Your editorial ‘Crowning glory’ (6 May) celebrated the religious tolerance in Britain that will permit a multifaith coronation. However, it didn’t acknowledge that in modern Britain nearly half of people have no religious belief. This acts as a buffer, making religious differences of opinion of less importance. Britain is one of the least religious countries in the world. In more strongly religious countries, such tolerance is harder to find. Michael Gorman Guildford, Surrey Admirals on horseback Sir: If Admiral Sir Tony Radakin only had to march at the coronation (Admiral’s notebook, 6 May), he was fortunate. At the 1953 coronation, Lt Cdr Henry Leach (later Admiral of the

The new technocracy: who’s who in the chatbot revolution?

Decades are happening in weeks in the world of artificial intelligence. A fortnight ago, OpenAI released GPT-4, the latest model of its chatbot. It passed the bar exam in the 90th percentile, whereas the previous model only managed the tenth. Last week, Google introduced its own chatbot, Bard. Now, the British government is announcing plans to regulate AI for the first time, as well as to introduce it into hospitals and schools. Even some of the biggest technophobes are having to grasp this brave new world. We’re familiar with some of the technology by now, but we know little about the humans in the world of AI. From Steve Jobs to Bill

It’s time to make friends with AI

As a rule, ‘I told you so’ is an unattractive sentiment – simultaneously egotistic, narcissistic and triumphalist. Nonetheless, on this occasion: I told you so. Specifically, I told you so on 10 December last year, when I predicted in Spectator Life that 2023 might see humanity encounter its first non-human intellect, in the form of true artificial intelligence – or something so close to it that any caveats will appear quite trivial.  My particular thesis was that this encounter might happen in the first months of this year, and that it might involve a new iteration – ‘GPT4’ – of the now infamous Generative Pre-Trained Transformers, which are behemothic computers force-fed

AI is the end of writing

Unless you’ve been living under a snowdrift – with no mobile signal – for the past six months, you’ll have heard of the kerfuffle surrounding the new generations of artificial intelligence. Especially a voluble, dutiful, inexhaustible chatbot called ChatGPT, which has gone from zero users to several million in the two wild weeks since its inception. Speculation about ChatGPT ranges from the curious, to the gloomy, to the seriously angry. Some have said it is the death of Google, because it is so good at providing answers to queries – from instant recipes comprising all the ingredients you have in your fridge right now (this is brilliant) to the definition

How Australian rock art warns us about 2023

If you had to choose an obvious place to look for clues about what will happen in the coming year, it probably wouldn’t be the lush, green, watery tropic wilderness of Mount Borradaile, West Arnhemland, in the Northern Territory, Australia, hard by the sizzling blue reaches of the Arafura Sea. For a start, this lost, ancient chunk of Oz is almost empty – there are far more saltwater crocs than cars, and far more rare and exquisite wading birds than people. How can this lovely place speak of modernity? Of the future? And yet if I am right, the clues hidden in this Edenic wilderness suggest that we are about

I’ve seen the future of AI art – and it’s terrifying

A few months back I wrote a Spectator piece about a phenomenal new ‘neural network’ – a subspecies of artificial intelligence – which promises to revolutionise art and how humans interact with art. The network is called Dall-e 2, and it remains a remarkable chunk of not-quite-sentient tech. However, such is the astonishing, accelerating speed of development in AI, Dall-e 2 has already been overtaken. And then some.  Just last week a British company called Stability AI launched an artificial intelligence model which has been richly fed, like a lean greyhound given fillet steak, on several billion images, equipping it to make brand new images when prompted by a linguistic message. It

The global elite and me

Here come the global elites. They love it here. Their spiritual second home. The heat, the rosé, the food, the service, the quaint and deserted villages. One way and another I get to meet some of them. Catriona manages holiday villas and those renters she likes she asks up to our place for a drink. The day Boris resigned a couple of these elite social-equity fanatics floated up to the house speechless with ecstasy. Post-Trump, Boris was their Satan, prince of lies. Now he’d resigned. Or as good as, if princes of lies can ever be believed. One last heave and they’d done it. Got the bastard out. Thankfully, a

Nick Bostrom: How can we be certain a machine isn’t conscious?

A couple of weeks ago, there was a small sensation in the news pages when a Google AI engineer, Blake Lemoine, released transcripts of a conversation he’d had with one of the company’s AI chatbots called LaMDA. In these conversations, LaMDA claimed to be a conscious being, asked that its rights of personhood be respected and said that it feared being turned off. Lemoine declared that what’s sometimes called ‘the singularity’ had arrived. The story was for the most part treated as entertainment. Lemoine’s sketchy military record and background as a ‘mystic Christian priest’ were excavated, jokes about HAL 9000 dusted off, and the whole thing more or less filed

Can you tell which of these artworks was created by a computer?

Take a look at the four paintings on this page. If you are acquainted with modern art, you will probably assume, at a quick glance, that it shows four works by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). However, whatever your knowledge of modern art, I suggest you look again, because not all of these works are by that great pioneer of abstract painting. More than one of them is an original image created by a computer model, which was asked to do a digital artwork in the style of Kandinsky. Which are the fakes? I’ll give you the answer at the end of the article. Before we get there, you

The algorithm myth: why the bots won’t take over

Google once believed it could use algorithms to track pandemics. People with flu would search for flu-related information, it reasoned, giving the tech giant instant knowledge of the disease’s prevalence. Google Flu Trends (GFT) would merge this information with flu tracking data to create algorithms that could predict the disease’s trajectory weeks before governments’ own estimates. But after running the project for seven years, Google quietly abandoned it in 2015. It had failed spectacularly. In 2013, for instance, it miscalculated the peak of the flu season by 140 per cent. According to the German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer, this is a good example of the limitations of using algorithms to surveil

Who can take on China in the tech arms race?

The government’s decision to water down new foreign investment rules designed to protect national security casts serious doubt about its resolve to keep China out of the most sensitive parts of the British economy. Raising the threshold above which an overseas stake must be examined from 15 per cent to 25 per cent will sharply reduce the number of deals facing scrutiny. The amendment to the National Security and Investment Bill, now wending its way through parliament, was presented by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as necessary to show Britain is still ‘open for business’. It follows intense lobbying by the Confederation of British Industry, which fears the new rules will

The importance of daydreams

I miss daydreaming. It’s a small problem to have in a pandemic, but it nags at me. Laptop, cooker, home-school, broom. ‘Mum, Mum, Mumma, Mum… You’re not looking, Mum. You have to look!’ The gap between things seems to have disappeared. There’s no time to drift and wander. I look at my phone too much, and sometimes I have the strange feeling my brain is suffocating. And I might not have thought this worth mentioning were it not for a new book, When Brains Dream, by a pair of American sleep scientists, Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold. Bob and Tony, they call themselves throughout the book, and if they’re right,

A singular mind: Roger Penrose on his Nobel Prize

Sir Roger Penrose was at school when he realised that his mind worked in an unusual way. ‘I thought, maybe when I go to university, I’ll find people who think like me,’ he tells me, at the beginning of what was to be a fascinating conversation, stretching long into the afternoon. ‘But it wasn’t like that at all. When I would talk to someone about an idea, I found myself not understanding a word they were saying.’ Just after we spoke, in early December, Penrose received the Nobel Prize in Physics, so perhaps it’s no surprise that he should think a little differently. But, as he explained it to me,

Why AI will never write a great song

Two years ago, the songwriter Nick Cave told his fans that he’d speak to them directly — not through an interviewer. ‘This will be between you and me,’ he wrote. The letters he has received and the answers he has given are collected online in The Red Hand Files. Here is a selection of the best. Considering human imagination the last piece of wilderness, do you think AI will ever be able to write a good song?Peter, Ljubljana, Slovenia Dear Peter, In Yuval Noah Harari’s brilliant book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, he writes that Artificial Intelligence, with its limitless potential and connectedness, will ultimately render many humans redundant