The most exciting breakthrough of 2022
Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 16 December 2022
As the year comes to a close, it is natural to reflect on both the good and the bad of the past twelve months.
This year has been tough, with wars, inflation, and the fallout from the pandemic.
But I do not want to dwell on the negatives. Instead, I want to focus on the one thing that truly stood out to me this year: the incredible advances in artificial intelligence (AI).
AI has its share of detractors, and some people believe it has nothing to do with genuine intelligence. Fair enough. Others fear AI could turn against humanity, and it is possible that millions of jobs may disappear because of AI.
But despite these objections, it is hard not to be amazed by the progress in this field.
In 2022, we saw a breakthrough in software that can create images from simple text instructions. With apps like DALL·E 2 or Midjourney, it takes just a few seconds to generate stunning images of anything from a photograph of Henry VIII to abstract art in the style of Kandinsky.
The AI image generators of 2022 were already spectacular. But over the past two weeks, the release of ChatGPT opened yet another new world. Though similar apps have been around for a while, it elevated AI dialogue to a whole new level.
With this technology, anyone can now use AI to draft parliamentary bills, legal contracts, programming code, short stories, and even cooking recipes. ChatGPT can summarise articles, write medieval poetry, and explain complex concepts like nuclear physics.
In short, ChatGPT can do almost anything you ask it to, quickly and for free.
There are some moments when you know the world will never be the same. The invention of motorised flight was one such moment. The beginning of the World Wide Web was another.
The year 2022 was a such turning point for artificial intelligence. For the first time, the wider public had access to this technology in a simple and user-friendly form. It is world-changing. And even though the software is not perfect, the next version, GPT4, is even more powerful and only a few months away.
Though AI comes with many ethical and legal challenges, it also offers exciting opportunities.
Imagine using AI as a tool to enhance teaching and learning. Students could ask the software specific questions and receive personalised answers. Researchers could use it to sift through data and literature as their virtual research assistant. Policy-makers could use AI to quickly find best practices and develop effective reforms (and wouldn’t that be nice for a change?).
So as we look back on the often exhausting year of 2022, let’s take this bit of hope with us into the summer. We have a new giant toolbox at our disposal. With our own intelligence to use it wisely, we can make the world a better place.
On this optimistic note, let me we wish you a Merry Christmas, a good break, and many intelligent discoveries in the New Year.