Copyright chaos grows deeper by the minute

The law doth punish man or woman That steals the goose from off the common But lets the greater felon loose Who steals the common from the goose The authors of a fascinating new look at the patchwork chaos called copyright begin their book with this epigraph from an ancient English protest song against fencing, and thereby privatising, common land. David Bellos, a comparative literature professor at Princeton University and winner of the first International Booker Prize in 2005 for his translations of Ismail Kadare, and Alexandre Montagu, a lawyer specialising in intellectual property and new media law, have written a timely history of a ‘relatively simple idea – that

The balance of power between humans and machines

The twin poles of the modern imaginarium about technology and society can be represented by two masterpieces of popular culture. In James Cameron’s film The Terminator (1984) and its sequels, a global computer system called Skynet becomes sentient and proceeds to try to exterminate the human race by means of time-travelling Austrian bodybuilders. In Iain M. Banks’s ‘Culture’ novels, by contrast (beginning with Consider Phlebas, 1987), a space-faring humanlike species has created superintelligent machines, known as Minds, which automate all the labour of production, leaving people free to pursue artistic activities and extreme sports. As our tech-bro overlords race to create proper AI, then, the present question is whether engineered

How I tried to buy The Spectator

The Victoria and Albert Museum kindly threw me a leaving party after eight years as chair, plus a particularly apt present: a specially commissioned illuminated V&A logo made from powder-coated steel by the designer Toby Albrow. The logo is a reference to my megalomaniacal taste for giant logos atop museum buildings. We have placed a huge one on the roof of the Young V&A in Bethnal Green, and an even bigger one – 20 feet high – on the new V&A East in Stratford, visible from three miles away in Canary Wharf. What an exhilarating and happy gig the V&A has been. I’m going to miss it and the people.

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