India Today Conclave 2023: Microsoft President Brad Smith says AI could be as big as Internet

Brad Smith, Vice Chairman and President of Microsoft discussed the potential and pitfalls of generative AI with Rahul Kanwal, Executive Director of India Today Group, at the India Today Conclave 2023. Smith talked about the hype and hyperbole surrounding AI. 

Smith was made to choose from three famous quotes. One is from Sundar Pichai who says AI is more profound than the discovery of AI. Another is from Google’s former Chief Business Officer who claimed that ‘we are making God’ and the third is from Elon Musk who claimed that building generative AI is like summoning a demon. 

Smith mostly agreed with Pichai’s statement that AI will be profound but refrained from matching it with fire, instead he equated it with the invention of the internet. Smith sees generative AI as a revolution in knowledge work and predicts it will improve critical thinking, creative expression, productivity, and connections among people. However, he also acknowledges that there will be people who will use it for less noble aspirations.

Smith said, “I guess the first thing I would say is that those three quotes are all good illustrations of the fact that the tech sector is never short on hype or hyperbole. I do think that the one that I would select as the closest to me is Sundar’s quote. I don’t know if I would match it with fire. But I think we will find that generative AI is on a par with the internet.”

Smith also discussed the response to ChatGPT which was launched in November last year. Within 30 days, the first controversy surrounding it emerged when teachers expressed concern that students might use it to cheat. This was not something that Microsoft had anticipated. Smith reflected on the interaction between new technology and public opinion, which could create unexpected challenges that need to be addressed. He also mentioned that every new technology unsettles people at first, but eventually, we all incorporate it into our lives.

Also read: Humans would do well by being cautious of AI, but should not stop using it, says Stability AI COO Ren Ito

Smith referenced a quote from a teacher who was selected as the most outstanding teacher in her state in 1984. The teacher said that the calculator was like a crutch that weakened people’s muscles. Smith believes that this is a reminder that people had similar concerns about technology in the past and eventually incorporated it into their lives. The conversation ended with Smith highlighting the need to manage the potential and pitfalls of AI carefully.

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