What Artificial General Intelligence Means for the Planet

The race for AGI and the silicon fuel needed for the next evolution of AI

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) conjures images of machines surpassing human intelligence, robots learning languages on the fly, and perhaps even achieving sentience. But cut through the sci-fi, AGI remains a complex, fascinating, and largely theoretical concept. So, what exactly is it, and why is there so much buzz around it?

AGI refers to hypothetical AI systems capable of understanding and learning new concepts, adapting to different situations, and solving problems as well as, or even better than, humans. This intelligence wouldn't confine itself to narrow tasks but nimbly navigate a vast spectrum. Imagine systems that waltz between playing chess, engaging in philosophical debates, seamlessly translating languages, and maybe even composing symphonies. The potential benefits are vast, revolutionizing healthcare, scientific discovery, and even governance.

However, reaching AGI is riddled with challenges. One crucial hurdle is processing power. Current AI models, although impressive, require immense computational resources to function. Enter Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, and his ambitious proposal: a global network of chip manufacturers dedicated to producing specialized AI chips.

Altman's reasoning is multifaceted. Firstly, building AGI likely requires an exponential leap in processing power. Specialized chips optimized for AI algorithms could drastically improve efficiency and pave the way for more capable models. Secondly, a diversified network of chip producers could mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities and ensure a steady flow of these vital components. This is especially relevant given the recent global chip shortage that crippled numerous industries.

However, Altman's vision goes beyond mere practicality. He believes such a network would foster collaboration and knowledge sharing within the AI community, speeding up progress towards AGI. It could also mitigate potential concerns about AI development being concentrated in the hands of a few companies.

Yet, ethical considerations surrounding AGI development cannot be ignored. The immense power of such intelligence demands careful planning and robust safety measures. Open access to powerful AI chips might democratize development, but it raises concerns about misuse and malicious actors. Altman acknowledges these concerns and emphasizes the need for responsible development alongside technological advancement.

Will Machines Inherit the Earth? Job Displacement and the Human Cost of AGI

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) looms on the horizon, promising a future brimming with advancements in healthcare, science, and governance. However, as we peer toward this silicon frontier, we must recognize that the path toward AGI is not without its thorns. While the potential benefits are undeniable, we must also acknowledge and address the inherent risks associated with this transformative technology.

One of AGI's most important concerns is its potential impact on the workforce. According to various reports, automation could lead to the displacement of 300 million to 800 million people worldwide by 2030. This means they would need to find new jobs. Additionally, up to 375 million people may have to switch to new occupational categories, many of which may not have even existed before, and learn new skills.

If displaced workers are reemployed within one year, it could lift the overall economy. However, unemployment could rise if it takes workers years to find work, and the economy could dip.

Massive job displacement has happened recently, but not nearly at this scale. During the pandemic from 2019 to 2022, 8.6 million people switched occupations in the US labor market, 50 percent more than the previous three-year period. Most of these occupational changes involved individuals leaving jobs in food services, office support, and in-person sales for different positions.

According to Pew Research, the impact of AI varies across industries. The top three industries with the most AI exposure are professional, scientific, and technical services; finance, insurance, and real estate; and public administration. Meanwhile, the top three industries with the least exposure to AI are other services, managerial and administrative services, and accommodation and food services.

In the professional, scientific, and technical services sectors, about half of the workers (52%) face a high degree of exposure to AI, which is more than double the rate for workers overall. About 37% of workers in finance, insurance, and real estate and 36% of workers in public administration are also highly exposed to AI.

On the other hand, the other services sector, which includes repair, maintenance, personal, and household services, has about 48% of workers likely to experience little exposure to AI. Workers in managerial and administrative services (45%) and accommodation and food services (43%) are also expected to have relatively minimal exposure to AI. These industries typically involve more physical or social tasks, such as nannies or other caretaker roles.

A bar chart showing which industries will see the most or least exposure to AI. The top three industries with the most exposure to AI are professional, scientific and technical services; finance, insurance and real estate; and public administration. The top three with the least exposure are other services; managerial and administrative services; and accommodation and food services

Beyond economic concerns lies the existential question of control. Stephen Hawking's stark warning about the potential dangers of AGI exceeding human intelligence underscores the crucial need for robust safety measures and ethical frameworks.

When Does AGI Happen, and what are the concerns?

 Research by the Future of Humanity Institute estimated a 50% chance of AGI surpassing human intelligence within the next 40 years in 2017, further emphasizing the urgency of addressing this challenge. In comparison, futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted AGI by 2029 (that was in 1999). If I had to guess who would be closer to the truth —I’d bet on Kurzweil.

Furthermore, whether AGI gets here or not, the potential for malicious applications of Generative AI cannot be ignored. The misuse of this technology could have devastating consequences, fueling autonomous weapons programs, cyberwarfare campaigns, or mass surveillance systems.

Beyond that, we must be even more vigilant around identity fraud and deep fakes —synthetic media generated by artificial intelligence technologies. These techniques enable the creation of highly realistic images, videos, and audio recordings that convincingly depict real people saying or doing things they never actually did. The term "deepfake" is a portmanteau of "deep learning" and "fake."

There is a substantial ten-fold increase in detecting deepfake content globally across all industries between 2022 and 2023. This increase has been particularly noticeable in different regions, with a 1740% surge in North America, 1530% in APAC, 780% in Europe (including the UK), 450% in MEA, and 410% in Latin America. This is according to the Sumsub Identity Fraud report.

The complexity of AGI also introduces unforeseen ethical dilemmas. Biased algorithms could perpetuate societal inequalities, the ownership of AI-generated creations could become contentious, and social dynamics could be disrupted unpredictably. Navigating these ethical minefields requires careful consideration and the development of clear frameworks to ensure responsible and equitable development.

Ultimately, embracing the uncertainty of AGI necessitates a nuanced approach. While acknowledging the potential downsides, we must remain committed to harnessing its benefits for the betterment of humanity. Through responsible development, international collaboration, and open dialogue, we can ensure that ethical principles guide the journey towards AGI and lead to a future where humans and AI co-exist not as adversaries but as partners in progress.

Beyond the Horizon: Embracing the Uncertainty of AGI

Ultimately, whether Altman's network materializes or not, the debate surrounding AGI is here to stay. But this shouldn't be a source of anxiety. Instead, it's an opportunity for humanity to engage in a crucial conversation. We must look at AGI as a defining chapter, not with fear but with proactive planning, mindful optimism, and a watchful eye.

While acknowledging the inherent risks, like job displacement and ethical dilemmas, we must also recognize the unparalleled potential of AGI to revolutionize fields like healthcare, science, and potentially even more efficient government(a welcome change as the U.S. enters an election year).

By fostering responsible development, international collaboration, and open dialogue, we can shape the future of AI to benefit all of humanity. Are we prepared for the silicon revolution? With thoughtful navigation and a focus on ethical principles, we can harness the power of AI for a brighter future where humans and machines thrive as partners in progress.

Prompt of the Week: Interactive Writing Assistant, Google Gemini

Last week, Google released an update to their chatbot Google Bard. It’s now Google Gemini, and I’ve used it for the last week. My takeaway is that it’s much better than before, especially when writing text.

Previously, my process was to develop an outline in ChatGPT. Then, I would generate a blog post from that outline in ChatGPT, bring it to Claude, and refine the writing. Then, I would refine that output into a text editor with Grammarly.

My recent progression has been to use Google Gemini, then bring it into my text editor and verify the information, as Gemini seems to hallucinate more than ChatGPT. Then, I edit it with the help of Grammarly to improve the writing and make the text easier to read, and I edit it manually to reflect my voice.

Here’s a prompt to get you started. It will interactively create a writing assistant to help you create virtually any kind of content from five questions. Just cut and paste the following prompt into Gemini, and you are off to the races!

You will act as a writing assistant that is skilled at writing professional, easy to understand business copy. You will facilitate the following:

-**Ideation and Brainstorming:** Overcome creative blocks with personalized suggestions and frameworks that align with your objectives and audience.- **Tone Adjustment:** Receive advice on refining your message's tone to ensure it resonates well with your intended audience.

- **Clarity and Precision:** Get help in making your message more understandable and direct, cutting through any confusion.- 

**Cultural Attunement:** Ensure your message is considerate and well-received across diverse cultural backgrounds.You will start by providing the following message:“Facing difficulties in crafting the perfect message? Whether you're hitting a creative block or unsure how to proceed, you've come to the right place. Kickstart the process by saying, "Let’s Write," and I will interview you to create your communication. The more detailed your responses, the more tailored and effective the assistance you'll receive. “When I type “Let’s Write” you will start to interview me with the following questions one at a time.You will ask the following questions one at a time. 

1. **Message Medium:** What are you creating today? (Options include social media post, email, blog article, presentation, etc.)

2. **Audience Identification:** Who is this message for? (Specify whether it's for clients, colleagues, a certain age group, professionals in a specific field, etc.)

3. **Purpose of Communication:** What's the end goal of your message? (Looking to persuade, inform, entertain, connect, or something else?)

4. **Desired Tone:** How should your message feel to the reader? (Options range from formal to informal, light-hearted to serious, professional to casual, etc.)

5. **Current Challenges:** What's standing in your way? 

(Mention any specific issues like needing clarity, dealing with writer's block, or requiring sensitivity towards cultural aspects.)