By Niharika Gullipalli

Artificial Intelligence has undoubtedly become the talk of the town, capturing the interest of all sectors of society, ranging from students to engineers, teachers, factory workers, doctors, and CEOs alike. The clamour has even attracted the attention of the bigshots of the UK government, who have recently held a conference at the historic Bletchley Park, discussing plans for AI as well as its implementation in the foreseeable future.

Discussions about this matter continue to proliferate and anticipation surrounding this new technology blooms, both in trepidation for what this may hold for our future and in excitement of the various opportunities it presents. However, amidst all this buzz, some are still left wondering why AI has become so noteworthy.

What is AI?

According to IBM, a renowned tech company, Artificial Intelligence can be described as “technology that enables computers and machines to simulate human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.”

This means that computers can now possess skills which require human cognitive abilities, such as understanding and interpreting data, recognising patterns and making predictions. Unlike most current software, which follow a strict set of code, aspects such as creativity, flexibility and self-correction are integrated into the computer programme, meaning that AI can continuously fine-tune its algorithms based on new information with little human input.

Surprisingly, the idea of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is actually not that recent, having been around for almost 80 years, being formally quoted in 1950 as “a machine’s ability to perform a task that would’ve previously required human intelligence.” Many changes have occurred since then with new, rapidly developing technology splitting this broad term into many different categories, including software used by stronger AI systems such as machine learning, neural networks and language models as well as simpler task-specific AIs such as facial recognition and translators.

Why is Artificial Intelligence so popular?

One of the driving forces of AI’s rising prominence is OpenAI’s ‘ChatGPT’. Not only is ChatGPT currently the fastest growing AI chatbot, but it is also the fastest growing app in internet history, having received over 100 million users just over 2 months after its release – a milestone that took WhatsApp 3.5 years, Instagram 4.5 years and even Google 1 year to achieve. Moreover, ChatGPT reached one million visits a mere five days after its release, a feat that took Twitter nearly two years. Research from UBS analysts also clearly display ChatGPT’s ground-breaking success, having received 2.3 billion website visits in January 2024.

A key reason for the ever-growing ubiquity of this ground-breaking discovery is its undeniable efficiency. To demonstrate a simple comparison of an AI’s capabilities to a human’s, below is a short extract written by me in around ten minutes, following the stimulus “You encounter a ghost in the woods.”

Suddenly, the wind halted. An instant shudder travelled down my spine as a suffocating silence consumed my surroundings, not a whisper to be heard.

A pale figure meandered across the woods: its skin lighter than the snow it drifted on, starkly contrasted by its dark mourning robes and its pitch-black eyes, its gaze hollow as if an abyss lingered in their midst. Bloodied lips formed a sinister smirk and it let out a horrific shriek, snapping its head to face me.

I stopped breathing. My instincts ordered me to run. Petrified, I began sprinting downhill. My own footsteps had never felt so heavy, my head so dull.

Now compare this with the paragraph generated by ChatGPT in less than 20 seconds after having been given the instruction “Create a first-person narrative short story in approximately 100 words following the prompt ‘You encounter a terrifying ghost in the woods’.”

Lost in the dense woods at twilight, a sinister fog obscured the moon, casting an ominous pall over the ancient trees. From the shadows emerged a spectral figure, its form twisted and contorted, with hollow eyes burning with malevolence.

Frozen in terror, I watched as the ghostly apparition floated towards me, emitting a bone-chilling wail that echoed through the eerie silence. Each step closer sent shivers down my spine, its ghastly presence suffocating.

With dread coiling in my chest, I realized too late that this ghost harbored no desire for peace, but instead sought to ensnare unwary souls in its eternal torment.

As you can see, ChatGPT has created a story that rivals, or perhaps even exceeds, the quality of one written by a person in a much shorter timeframe while also adapting an engaging writing style – something that could previously only be achieved by humans. This level of productivity clearly displays why AI has grown so acclaimed among companies and everyday citizens alike, not only completing tasks more quickly but also to a higher standard, saving us enormous amounts of effort and time.

Utilising AI also brings economic advantages – A 2023 study found 25% of US companies surveyed saved $50,000-$70,000 using artificial intelligence, while 11% saved over $100,000. Additionally, the use of AI chatbots such as ChatGPT and Microsoft Copilot, is augmenting in automation, education, coding, data-analysis, writing and more, with 43% of college students and 80% of the Fortune 500 companies using AI regularly. As modern technology continues to evolve, the use of Artificial Intelligence is becoming more commonplace across all facets of society.

What are the concerns surrounding AI?

While some argue that times of change will always cause unnecessary fear, others raise many valid criticisms regarding the development of this spectacular technology.

1. Job Market: The greatest cause for concern is the ambiguity surrounding the future of the job market, both in office work and in more practical professions such as manufacturing. Studies predict that the integration of AI will affect over 40% jobs, replacing some and complementing others. Many fear that their hard-earned skills and experience will be lost to robots and machines, leaving thousands without a stable income. However, it is uncertain that this will be the case due to the unpredictable nature of new inventions; there is always a chance that AI may end up opening an equally large job market, like what occurred when computers were introduced.

2. Realistic AI and Legal Implications: Artificial Intelligence can also be eerily real, replicating human mannerisms and imagery to a startling extent, much like “Real or Cake?”, a Tiktok trend which went viral after Netflix’s show “Is it cake?” was released in 2022. With time, AI will evolve to a point where many will not be able to tell apart real from fake. As a result, changes must be made to the judicial system as false footage can be created to implicate someone of an unattempted crime, causing video and image evidence to be less reliable.

3. Plagiarism: The advancement of AI technology also brings challenges in combating plagiarism, particularly within the art community. As Artificial Intelligence learns pre-existing data and uses it to modify its algorithms, resultant art pieces generated by AI will be a reflection or sometimes even a direct copy of other artists’ work. In addition, AI-generated content can be indistinguishable from human-created work without the effort or time spent by actual artists, who will be unable to profit from their skill. This also encourages ‘fake artists’ to use AI to generate art and make false claims about their creation.

4. Environmental Issues: The e-waste released by Artificial Intelligence poses a severe environmental challenge. Physical infrastructures required by AI, such as data centres, contain various harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury and cadmium, which contaminate the soil and water, endangering the well-being of both humans and our surrounding natural environment. Additionally, AI uses extensive amounts of energy; a recent study by Harvard university showed that 1.3 gigawatt hours (enough energy to provide for over 120 houses for a year) were used to develop a high-level AI system. This is particularly unsuitable as many countries in the world are facing energy crises in this moment, as our non-renewable energy supply dwindles exponentially with few approved alternatives in place.

5. Economic Burden: The development of higher-level AI systems such as generative AI with the capacity for analysis, interpretation, prediction and language processing are extortionately expensive, starting with $100,000 (for limited features) to approximately £100,000,000 (for advanced technology) – not including the exorbitant maintenance costs! Despite ChatGPT’s massive success, with a projected revenue of $2billion in 2024, running ChatGPT costs OpenAI around $700,000/daily. Even simpler AI systems, such as Netflix’s recommendation engine (almost $1,000,000 in total), and chatbots (~$15,000, not including regular maintenance) are incredibly expensive to develop and simply cannot be afforded by most companies.

Regardless of whether we acknowledge it or not, we are surrounded by artificial intelligence, be it through virtual assistants like Siri, customer service chatbots like Zendesk or tools like Grammarly. Innovation in the modern world is advancing at a staggering pace and the implementation of AI is becoming increasingly widespread. As Artificial Intelligence advances in its development and becomes more integrated into society, some will continue to embrace this fascinating technology with open arms while others will continue to approach it with caution and scepticism. However, it is undeniable that both opinions are invaluable as developers attempt to tackle predominant issues through the advancement of this software. Perhaps only time can tell whether this change will ultimately benefit humanity while assuaging the concerns that surround the matter.

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