Welcome to AI This Week, Gizmodo’s weekly roundup where we do a deep dive on what’s been happening in artificial intelligence.
Okay, okay, he didn’t actually wear the dead Apple CEO’s sweater. But he did everything but that at OpenAI’s inaugural Dev Day this week to seem like the kind of executive that could, eventually, step into the corporate guru’s iconic shoes.
That is to say, Sam Altman did a pretty good job at Dev Day. He wasn’t as boring as a lot of the keynote speakers who drone on and on during their companies’ respective annual conferences. He also isn’t quite as awkward as a lot of the other tech titans who stiffly narrate the tepid updates from their corporate journeys as if any deviation from the script might cause them to suffer an aneurysm. He just knows how to stand on a stage and announce a bunch of stuff and not be completely and utterly boring. Well done, Sam.
Surely Altman really wants the exalted status of being the next legendary tech messiah—a status that really hasn’t been filled since Jobs died, to much global outcry, in 2011. To do that, he’ll probably need to beef up OpenAI’s marketing department, since a lot of Jobs’ mythos seems to have been derived from an active marketing of the executive himself, not just the products he was selling.
On that note, if OpenAI isn’t exactly Apple circa 2007, it’s definitely trying to be. If the tech startup has all the current cultural relevance that Apple did in its early days, one thing it hasn’t quite figured out how to do is to make consumers fall in love with its product. ChatGPT is weird and, in some cases, useful. But it isn’t beautiful or paradigm-shifting in the way that the earlier iPods and iPhones were. This week, at Dev Day, the company rolled out a bevy of new products and features, obviously trying to stir up more enthusiasm from its real customers—not the public at large, but businesses, who stand to profit the most from the company’s juiced-up algorithms.
Altman’s modicum of charisma notwithstanding, I’m obviously less than excited about what he and his industry are actually doing to the world. I have, on more than one occasion, expressed a certain amount of concern for the impact the generative AI industry is having (or threatening to have) on important societal institutions like education, art and filmmaking, journalism, and the like. Whether Altman is a good corporate leader or not doesn’t really matter as much as what his corporation is actually creating. Altman and his cohort would say they’re disrupting things. I’d argue they’re just causing trouble.
Question of the Day: Exactly how deranged is Grok?
After Elon Musk dropped Grok, his weird new “anti-woke” chatbot, over the weekend, users on X have been sharing screenshots of what they claim are the chatbot’s unhinged answers. Marketed as a zany, “rebellious” alternative to other, more restrained chatbots, Grok’s musing so far include weird takes on stuff like cocaine, sex, and even competitor Sam Altman; you can also apparently turn on something called “Fun mode,” which enables Grok’s answers to get progressively edgier. While entertaining, some users have noted that Musk may have overpromised what the chatbot can actually do, as it doesn’t have quite the computational power as other platforms. Grok is apparently modeled off of the guidebook from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams’ well-known science fiction novel, of which Elon is a huge fan. It’s also trained on and, therefore, has access to, all of the data spawned by Musk’s platform X (formerly Twitter). In short: Grok seems a lot like it’s creator—an edgelord with more bluster than sense.
More Headlines This Week
- The AI pin cometh. Humane, the weird new startup claiming it’s going to help humanity get past its smartphone addition, finally dropped its much anticipated device—the AI pin—this week. We did a breakdown of the pin’s announced features, which the company says is going to revolutionize computing. Critics, however, have accused the startup of trying to sell users an expensive phone without a screen.
- Brain surgery: brought to you by Silicon Valley’s most mercurial billionaire. Neuralink, Elon Musk’s computer-to-brain startup, is still on the hunt for an ideal patient that wants to undergo its experimental new surgery. The company, which has been accused of torturing monkeys to death, nevertheless recently received FDA approval to trial its weird Matrix-like technology on humans. Now, it wants to find the perfect candidate who is ready and willing to be its test subject. Apparently, “thousands” of people are interested. You can definitely count me out.
- Why is Obama suddenly an AI expert? The last American president who could string a coherent sentence together, Barack Obama, seems to have stepped back into the limelight to reinvent himself as some sort of “AI czar.” Uh, why? I’m always down to hear Obama’s well-spoken perspectives on things but I’m at somewhat of a loss as to what his credentials are here. At any rate, I’m curious to see how/why he’ll be involved in regulatory conversations moving forward.