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The ChatGPT hype raises hopes and fears around AI

The ChatGPT hype raises hopes and fears around AI

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Today’s top stories

US President Joe Biden paid an unexpected visit to Kiev to show his commitment to Ukraine ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s all-out invasion. China’s top diplomat is set to discuss the war with senior Russian officials later this week, while Turkey denied exporting technology products with military applications.

Dutch intelligence services have warned of Russian attempts to sabotage North Sea energy infrastructure, including undersea cables, wind farms and gas pipelines.

Kate Forbes, Scotland’s Finance and Business Secretary, joined Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and former Community Security Secretary Ash Regan to announce her candidacy to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party and the country’s first Minister.

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Good evening.

Today we report on how Chinese tech giants are trying to keep up with western developments in artificial intelligence like ChatGPT, which despite only being released in November has accelerated the debate on AI’s impact on jobs as well as a host of ethical issues.

Baidu said it will reveal details this week about a chatbot called Ernie to be integrated into its electric vehicles and smart assistants, as well as its search engine, which would send its shares skyrocketing. A rapid rise in shares of Chinese AI groups follows (mirroring trends in the US), prompting state media to warn of the speculative frenzy.

However, there are some obstacles for the fledgling industry to overcome. Less high-quality Chinese-language text is available for training AI software; the US export ban on advanced semiconductors will limit building enough computing power for AI programs; and the cost is huge – it has been estimated that running ChatGPT with 10 million monthly users is priced at $1 million per day.

As our recent Big Read details show, ChatGPT is the most prominent of a new wave of so-called “generative systems” that produce content to order and could potentially replace millions of jobs.

Early adopters of the new technology include the publisher of the British newspaper Daily Mirror, which is investigating the use of the chatbot to cover local news, and the law firm Allen & Overy, which is launching a tool powered by the same AI to help them support lawyers in drafting contracts.

One of the big questions, writes innovation editor John Thornhill, is whether this latest iteration of AI can increase productivity in the economy at large after years of touted transformative effects making little difference.

The biggest vote of confidence in ChatGPT to date has been Microsoft’s “multi-billion dollar investment” in OpenAI, the company behind the technology. Microsoft is turning to AI to develop new “productivity” software alongside its Office apps and improve its Bing search engine. Google, the leader in search technology, has developed its own AI-powered chatbot called Bard. However, the chatbot stumbled on its debut, dumping shares of Google’s parent company Alphabet as investors digested the potential damage to its search dominance.

As is so often the case, technological developments precede ethical considerations, especially in the area of ​​generative AI and its potential to take jobs away from creative professionals. It also raises a myriad of copyright questions.

Academia has raised concerns that students will use the technology to cheat: ChatGPT has already been found to outperform some students on an MBA course at Wharton, one of the oldest and most reputable US business schools.

Ethical concerns about AI have even reached the Vatican, where tech correspondent Madhumita Murgia witnessed a remarkable meeting of technology and religious leaders who agreed on a set of principles known as the Rome Call. This includes making AI systems explainable, inclusive, unbiased and reproducible and requiring that a human always takes responsibility for an AI-supported decision.

Whether such ideals can allay immediate fears of being replaced by a machine is another matter. When your writer asked if ChatGPT could write a business newsletter about disruption, the response was quick and brutal: “Absolutely.”

Good to know: Economy in Great Britain and Europe

Is the tide of bad economic news out of the UK coming to an end? FT analysis of data for the past 10 days shows a level of resilience that points to a milder recession than many had forecast.

Negotiations on post-Brexit trade relations for Northern Ireland continue, with suggestions being made that an agreement could be reached as early as tomorrow. Meanwhile, Ireland’s central bank governor in the south defended the country’s world-best growth – more than triple the EU figure – against accusations it was artificially inflated by big US companies taking advantage of low taxes. Eurozone consumer confidence improved for the fifth straight month.

Line chart of GDP growth (annual percentage change) showing that Ireland's economy has outperformed the rest of the EU

Good to know: global economy

Air traffic at Hong Kong International Airport increased 29-fold in January after entry restrictions were lifted. The city hopes tourism can help revitalize its economy after a two-year recession and is giving away up to 500,000 free airline tickets.

World Bank member states are divided over proposed reforms after the early departure of their President, David Malpass. The proposals aim to better help poorer countries mitigate and plan for climate change. The bank’s next president has big challenges ahead, writes the former treasurer and chief investment officer.

US President Joe Biden’s plan to fuel a massive construction boom is being threatened by a shortage of construction workers. “We’re pouring millions and millions of dollars into infrastructure without anyone installing it,” said the head of the Home Builders Institute. “A shovel-ready project with nobody operating the shovel is worthless.”

Good to know: business

The disappearance of Bao Fan, founder of investment bank China Renaissance, has unsettled the country’s vast tech industry. Bao has been at the center of the sector’s funding and his fate is seen as a crucial test of Beijing’s stance after a two-year government crackdown.

Meta announced a paid subscription service for Facebook and Instagram users to review their accounts and get additional features for up to $14.99 per month. The company’s revenue was impacted by privacy changes from Apple that limited its ability to track users’ Internet activity.

UK businesses sounded the alarm about a ‘cliff’ on energy bills in April as government support begins to be phased out. Wholesale gas prices, while falling, are still about three times what they were before the pandemic began. According to a new forecast, the energy price ceiling for households is likely to rise to a lower level than previously expected.

“B Corp” status is the widely recognized gold standard for social and environmental performance, but the movement is beginning to stir controversy, as our Big Read explains. Our new Impact Investing special report shows how to put social benefits first.

The working world

Dealing with crises and firefighting is a crucial part of an executive’s job specification, but who do bosses turn to in their hour of need? Meet the CEO Whisperers.

Brits of a certain age are more likely to fear retirement than actively prepare for it. The answer may be a retirement coach, writes consumer editor Claer Barrett.

Micromanagement and weird dictations (“No Cord!”) may be out of fashion, but a world without the foibles of bosses would be far more boring, writes columnist Pilita Clark.

Global companies spend about $400 billion a year on formal employee training, but the cost is a sound investment, the Lex column argues. According to the World Economic Forum, in a quarter of at-risk jobs in the US, it’s cheaper to reskill a worker than to fire and hire others

Some good news

Citizen science projects like insect and butterfly surveys can boost well-being, according to a unique study by the British Ecological Society.

A woman examines flowers in a field© dr Michael Pocock/UK Center for Ecology & Hydrology

Working it – Discover the big ideas shaping today’s workplaces with a weekly newsletter from Isabel Berwick, Editor of Works and Careers. Login here

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