robot and human hand
WIll machine and human intelligence mix well?

Is AI about to create seismic change?

February 16, 2023
4 mins read
AI brain
AI could fundamentally change everything and it might not be all that far away

A short while ago, I wrote about ChatGPT, an incredibly versatile AI that has taken the world by storm. The story generated a huge amount of interest. Since then, all things AI related have heated up even more.

I don’t know about you, but it feels as if technology was stagnating, and we were getting the same old sh*t re-heated, restyled, and re-served. Innovation had seemingly withered and died on the vine.

Not anymore, though.

Since my ChatGPT story, Microsoft bought ChatGPT’s parent company, Open AI, sending Google into panic mode.

Microsoft and Open AI
AI and Bing might revolutionise internet searches

Microsoft is integrating ChatGPT and Dall-E (a text-to-graphics AI) into their Bing search engine and the Bing app. Today, the waiting list for the new Bing search AI-powered app (due in March) has over a million people signed up and waiting. Integrating chat GPT into Bing could fundamentally revolutionise how we search the internet.

At the moment, you enter a bunch of search terms into a search engine and then scroll through a long list of results until you find something that roughly matches what you were searching for. In theory, the Bing/ChatGPT combo could make the entire process far more conversational, allowing you set plain English search terms and then refine your search by making simple English suggestions to find whatever it is you are looking for.

There is a lot at stake. Google’s search and advertising revenues were a massive $224.47 billion US dollars in 2022, making up the bulk of their income. If Bing were to upend this, Google would lose an enormous chunk of what has made them viable for so long. In short, their panic is totally understandable.

Having watched a few decades earlier as the internet transformed how we shopped, travelled, and consumed media, the parallels with this potentially seismic technological shift seem eerily familiar.

robot and human hand
Will machine and human intelligence mix well?

Back then, I had a box seat to the internet explosion as it unfolded in a largely unsuspecting world. I was a research manager for IDC (an IT market research firm) and a commentator in numerous media outlets. The ’90s were probably the last time the familiar world I’d grown up in actually existed. We had video stores, those quaint places where you hired VHS video cassette movies (remember those?), and they were booming. Record labels were making record (pun intended) profits, and people actually went out and shopped.

In the 2020s, no one goes to video stores because none are left to visit. Record labels merely rent music to us via streaming services, and traditional broadcast TV is on its knees. None of this would have been possible without the internet and the widespread deployment of fibre broadband throughout New Zealand.

Now the big news is AI, and while the internet may have upended and reinvented much of our society, that’s probably small beer compared to what may unfold. In short, humanity could be on the verge of massive change as improvements to machine learning and AI ramp up and the boundaries between human and machine intelligence blur.

Technology typically works on an S-shaped curve. During the early stages of the curve, adoption and uptake is slow. As the technology matures, adoption explodes, and a raft of competitors enter the market with their own innovations to make a buck. This is the middle of the S curve, characterised by explosive growth and frenetic innovation. Eventually, the market saturates, and the technologies hit their practical limits, so the curve eventually flattens.

the evolution of man and AI
How will AI impact humanity?

Back in the ’90s, predictions (some even by yours truly) around the internet revolution were sometimes right, and sometimes wrong. Still, most analysts and industry speculators had some idea where on the S-shaped curve humanity was with the whole internet can of worms.

Meanwhile, back in the present, things are looking significantly more confusing as the looming explosion in artificial intelligence barrels towards humanity. Where the internet changed how we communicated, shopped and entertained, the coming AI revolution could fundamentally alter humanity’s place in the world, global economies, and so much more.

As machine intelligence equals and potentially surpasses that of humanity, society will reach what researchers call singularity. The concept of singularity is said to happen when AI moves beyond human control and begins to rapidly transform society. Progress on AI is moving so fast that it is hugely difficult to know where we are on the S-shaped curve, let alone predict what happens once we hit singularity with our newly minted machine overlords.

primitive man vs digital man
Will AI evolve humanity into digital entities?

AI experts had previously theorised that anything approximating singularity is a long way off. Still, popular mechanics recently published a story where AI experts are saying that singularity could be upon humanity as soon as seven years.

Other AI experts and tech industry luminaries have also weighed in on AI with alarming predictions. Last year, one of Open AI’s (the creators of ChatGPT) senior scientists, Ilya Sutskever warned that very large neural networks may be developing a form of consciousness. Tesla, Space X founder Elon Musk famously warned that “we need to be super careful with AI as they are potentially more dangerous than nukes.”. Bill Gates said that while AI could “supercharge social sciences”, he also said he has grave concerns about its use in warfare.

So, Will an AI singularity see society transformed from its present-day chaos into a paradise where scientific breakthrough after scientific breakthrough happens at a breakneck pace, forever changing humanity and making poverty a thing of the past? Or will we have something more akin to The Terminator, where machines work out that humans are in fact the problem and should be eliminated? Watch this space.




Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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