Approaching Generative AI With Eyes Wide Open 

Generative AI and large language models (LLMs) have been the overriding topic over the past year and a half, especially in the tech industry. Just look at the rise of ChatGPT, which saw about 100 million active monthly users in its first two months (in comparison, wildly popular Instagram took more than two years to hit that level). As gen AI centered itself in into nearly all our conversations, people have started thinking more and more about the possible implications of this technology—both positive and negative—on both our personal and professional lives. 2024 is expected to be the year in which the future we’re building with AI finally starts to take shape.

On January 9, 2024, I’m participating in a panel discussion with my esteemed colleagues across Snowflake to talk about how generative AI is going to change our work and our lives. (Join us at 2024 Predictions: Bracing for the Impact of Gen AI.) We’ll talk about where technology—specifically generative AI—is taking us. Our conversations will cover a number of topics, including the impact of gen AI on technical roles, its role in the surge of new software applications, its challenges to cybersecurity, and, more broadly, how advances in AI will affect our lives. If I had to sum up my take on this new AI era at the highest level, it would be that I am bullish about the potential of AI, but we need to go in with our eyes wide open.

There will certainly be growing pains, but the potential risks are getting a lot of media coverage, and we see business and government leaders already working to address them. As a society, we’re still bruised by the privacy issues within tech, making us more willing to tackle the challenges of the AI boom. 

Advanced AI will soon be as pervasive as smartphones. It will affect our lives and careers in a million specific ways we can’t even anticipate. At this point, it’s important that we proceed into this era of rapid AI adoption with cautious optimism. Specifically, we need to understand the following:

  • There are legitimate fears, but we can’t avoid change. We have to move forward and mitigate the risks because we can’t deny the power behind this fantastic technology. In his recent opinion piece, “Why I’m Optimistic About the Future of AI,” Bill Gates notes the work being done in cancer research and other medical fields as one powerful example. 
  • The biggest challenges are the ones we already know, like “hallucinatory” responses, unconscious bias and copyright infringement. We’ll have to continue to improve on how data gets into the models and ensure that over time AI models come to better recognize facts from fabrication.
  • Despite every effort, AI will never be perfect. We can’t eliminate all risk of hallucinations. And there will always be bad actors who will use this technology for nefarious purposes.  

What we can do:

  • As individuals, we need to acknowledge that we can be deceived. Just as the internet has changed how we relate to news and news sources, we continue to evolve an educated skepticism for an AI-filled new reality. 
  • We should seek transparency in the AI products we use and their outputs, and be conscious of potential biases.
  • As business leaders and technologists, we need to develop frameworks for understanding where AI brings value, and where we must identify and mitigate potential harms. This includes adopting responsible codes of conduct ourselves, and working with governments and other regulatory bodies to develop effective guardrails that expose and mitigate risks without stamping out innovation.

Above all, we must remain hopeful. This technology is going to change everything. Can you remember what it was like to not have a cell phone? To not instantly be able to contact anyone, to look up information, to transact business at any moment of your day, wherever you may be? Generative AI is going to bring this level of fundamental change to our daily lives, but it will be in the next few years, not 20 to 30 years down the road.

We can’t take for granted the amount of change that’s about to come. We should neither be blind to the risks nor let the opportunity slip through our fingers. Let’s look forward to the next few years of AI innovation—but let’s go in with our eyes wide open.

For more on both the potential and risk of advanced AI, plus trends in cybersecurity and more, check out Snowflake Data + AI Predictions 2024

The post Approaching Generative AI With Eyes Wide Open  appeared first on Snowflake.

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