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Sarah Silverman may be a funny comedian, but her legal action against OpenAI and Meta is no laughing matter. Silverman, in coordination with two other authors, is claiming copyright infringement as part of a new intellectual property lawsuit. As these creators see it, large language models such as ChatGPT (from OpenAI) and LLaMA (from Meta) are being trained on copyrighted material without their consent and without any form of compensation.
Future scenarios for AI
There are several different scenarios to consider here. The worst-case scenario, at least if you’re a fan of AI, is that these lawsuits will end up having a chilling effect on the future development of artificial intelligence. It will be close to impossible for any AI startup, such as OpenAI or Elon Musk’s new company xAI, to make any headway in the market. As soon as they make any advances, a whole team of lawyers and litigants will get involved, demanding their fair share of the profits.
The best-case scenario is that AI startups find a way to soothe the nerves of creators, many of whom have legitimate arguments about how their content is being used. As Silverman points out, her output of creativity is her livelihood, and AI is threatening to take this away without her consent.
Remember, though, that this same sort of scenario has occurred with just about every iteration of social media. Remember when Facebook was up and coming, and was routinely getting lawsuits for copyright infringements? Remember how hard the big media companies fought to keep Facebook from taking over the world of online content? Well, Facebook eventually found a way to play nice with the big media companies and other creators. Today, Facebook is such a juggernaut that nobody even thinks twice about copyrighted content appearing all over its platform.
How disruptive is AI going to be?
The important point to keep in mind here is that AI is a disruptive technology. This is more than just a buzzword. It means that AI has the potential to disrupt current business models, create new incentives for content creation, and change the way people are compensated for their work. Quite simply, this is going to change lives.
The best tech companies are going to find some way to deal with AI, in order to avoid becoming irrelevant. For example, as soon as Google noticed how people were using ChatGPT as their new portal for information, the company ramped up its own internal AI efforts. Google now has Bard, a legitimate AI competitor to ChatGPT. And Google is working on ways to ensure that people always start their internet adventures with Google.com as their home page.
New conversations about AI
As might be imagined, this opens up entirely new conversations about what steps creators should be taking in response to the “threat” from ChatGPT and LLaMA. You can’t stuff the genie back into the bottle, and this means creators need to figure out how to live alongside generative AI. They simply can’t litigate ChatGPT out of existence, as Sarah Silverman is trying to do. And it might not be wise to erect pay walls that the AI bots can’t breach, because that might mean nobody can find you online.
The good news is that companies such as OpenAI appear open to having these conversations. Google has already said that it has approached media companies about potential uses for its Bard technology. And Elon Musk has specifically pointed out that generative AI should be as open-source as possible, to make sure that nobody can corner the market. Nobody wants a huge, faceless company to dominate the future AI world, or for a mysterious, inscrutable “black box” technology to control what we read online.
One thing is certain: the world is never going to look the same, thanks to ChatGPT. Just as social media platforms fundamentally changed how we consume content, new AI-powered platforms like ChatGPT will also change how we consume content, and how we share it with others.