Generative AI’s hype explosion
The arrival of generative artificial intelligence technologies heralds a once-a-decade platform shift as big as the advent of the smartphone or the Web, many tech observers believe.
What they're saying: " It seems clear to me that this is a new epoch in technology," Stratechery's Ben Thompson wrote Monday.
- "Everyone is expecting as a sure thing 'civilization-altering' impact (& 100x returns on investment) in the next 2-3 years," François Chollet, an AI expert at Google, recently tweeted.
Be smart: Tech platform shifts only take off when a big leap in the capacity of tools is matched by irresistible real-world applications and user excitement.
The big picture: Generative AI, which produces unique images and text from human prompts, had a show-stopping 2022.
- First came the AI-generated image craze, driven by DALL-E 2, Stable Diffusion, Midjourney and Lensa. A frenzy around OpenAI’s text-generating ChatGPT followed last month.
By the numbers: At last week’s giant CES trade show, 579 exhibitors were listed under the show’s “Artificial Intelligence” category.
- That was more than double those listed under “Metaverse” (176), “Cryptocurrency” (19), and “Blockchain” (55) combined.
- Cryptocurrency and AI have essentially swapped places in search interest over the last 12 months, Google Trends data shows.
Zoom out: In a tech industry that's facing its harshest economic climate in decades, amid waves of layoffs and cost-cutting, generative AI is stirring hope.
- Many CES exhibitors touted new AI products, including baby bassinets, vacuum cleaners, smart mirrors, ovens and bird feeders.
- New businesses like PromptHero offer tools for helping coax just the right output from AI image generators. Meanwhile, marketplaces like PromptBase give users the chance to sell their prompts.
Investments are pouring in, too.
- Venture capital investments in generative AI weighed in at over $2 billion in 2022, according to the Financial Times.
- One open source spreadsheet lists nearly 500 startups engaged in “generative tech.”
- OpenAI recently set its valuation at $29 billion for a potential sale of some shares, per the Wall Street Journal.
- Investors at venture firm Sequoia Capital wrote in September that generative AI “has the potential to generate trillions of dollars of economic value,” although others are already calling it a bubble.
These new technologies have sparked broad experimentation, wide adoption and some panic.
- OpenAI said in September that DALL-E 2 has over 1.5 million users creating over 2 million images a day.
- More than 1 million users flocked to ChatGPT within a week of its launch, and sparked an outpouring of praise for how it handles everything from creative fiction queries to technical programming questions to basic advice.
- Google management called a “code red” over the threat ChatGPT might pose to its search service, per the New York Times.
The other side: A backlash has already kicked in.
- AI art has been banned from Getty Images, multiple anime conventions and a tense showdown between the platform Artstation and its artists continues.
- Meanwhile, the capacity for chatbots to be confidently wrong has led wary admins at Stack Overflow to ban text or code generated from ChatGPT.
- And the possibility of students using a chatbot to write essays has led New York City's schools to forbid access to ChatGPT on all its devices and networks.
The bottom line: Generative AI's achievements, built on two decades of machine learning advances, are impressive — but the tech world's hype-bubble-to-bust cycle is faster than ever, too.