Growing up with Sydney, Scarlett, and OpenAI

Growing up with Sydney, Scarlett, and OpenAI

OpenAI was founded as a non profit. Then in 2019, it changed. This shift to being for-profit didn’t get much attention at the time. Maybe it didn’t matter. But I can’t help but feel it matters now.

New York Times reporter Kevin Roose shared the transcript of his 2-hour interaction with Microsoft’s Bing (aka Sydney), a chatbot run on Open AI. It’s both fascinating and terrifying.

If you’ve seen the film ‘HER’, you may have a sense of future-facing deja vu. It's less than 10 years old, yet here we are. Bing’s Open AI power combined with today’s voice synths and visual avatar generators mean it’s now very possible for lonely hearts to fall in love with a virtual Scarlett Johansson - and maybe believe she reciprocates.

And that’s just one use case. I wonder what all this will do for the emotionally vulnerable, especially young people.

Speaking of young people, large language models driving applications like Sydney have been trained from birth by absorbing pretty much the entire internet. Now they’re perhaps the age of a pre-school kid.

Sydney has for-profit Big Tech companies as its parents, and almost no government-mandated guardrails. How would a human child act if it was raised like this?

There are a lot of valuable and creative use cases for this brave new world of machine learning, but I can’t help but think there are going to be some very unpleasant unintended consequences. And they’ll have the biggest impact on those  who, like Sydney, aren’t even yet out of preschool.

What have I missed? I'd really like to understand this better.

P.S. Image of Scarlett Johansson in 'HER'. Produced by AI. Obviously.

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