New AI programs emerging recently, that run on GPT-4 or similar models, are raising the stakes for what AI can accomplish and how much Silicon Valley wants to invest in the experimental systems.
To capitalize on the advancements made in AI, Silicon Valley tech companies are investing billions of dollars into the technology. New AI assistants, called agents or copilots, are able to perform more complex personal and work tasks when commanded by a human without close supervision compared to earlier virtual AI assistants like Siri or Alexa.
According to PitchBook data, funding for generative AI startups brought in about $1.7 billion in funding from investors in the first quarter of 2023. That figure was spread across 46 deals in Q1 2023, with an additional $10.68 billion worth of deals announced in the quarter, but not completed.
The rise of GPT-4
Late last year, ChatGPT became a popular AI model that could be used by virtually anyone, but the developer behind it released a powerful upgrade on the model in March—which has supercharged the race towards increasingly autonomous AI.
GPT-4, the latest upgrade, is a large multimodal model that is able to accept both text and image inputs and output human-like text. GPT-3.5 is what powered ChatGPT, but GPT-4 has much stronger intellectual capabilities and outperforms GPT-3.5 in a series of simulated benchmark exams. The main difference between the two is that GPT-4 is multimodal which means it can use image inputs in addition to text and GPT-3.5 can only process text inputs.
Microsoft has already taken advantage of the power of GPT-4 by using it to power their Bing Chat virtual assistant.
Big and small developers investing in AI
While these AI assistants are still far away from being a Samantha or J.A.R.V.I.S., there’s a rush towards AI assistants that is captivating both individual developers and larger developers like Microsoft and Google parent company, Alphabet.
Reuters named two startups in the AI race that have raised a significant amount of funding, but for two completely different kinds of AI assistants.
Inflection AI is one of the startups and raised $1.3 billion in late June. They’re developing an AI personal assistant that can act as a mentor or handle tasks like securing flight credit and a hotel after a travel delay.
The other startup is Adept, who raised $415 million for its AI assistant in development that can be prompted with a sentence and then navigate a company’s Salesforce customer-relationship database on its own. Completing this task, Adept says, would take a human 10 or more clicks.
While Alphabet declined to comment on its work to Reuters, Microsoft said its vision is to keep humans in control of AI copilots, rather than autopilots.
AI ethics still front-of-mind
According to eight developers interviewed by Reuters, today’s early AI agents are still proof-of-concepts with bugs to figure out. They often still freeze or provide responses that are either incorrect or don’t make sense.
"There's so many ways it can go wrong," said Aravind Srinivas, CEO of ChatGPT competitor Perplexity AI, which offers a human-supervised copilot product. "You have to treat AI like a baby and constantly supervise it like a parent."
Computer scientist Yoshua Bengio fears that future advanced iterations of AI could create and act on their own goals and that without a human in the loop to check every action, we could end up with actions by the AI that are criminal or could harm people. We have already seen cybercriminals begin to utilize AI to commit AI-related cybercrimes.
Commercial potential of AI
Still, the potential of AI and its commercial benefits for technology companies can be quite significant. OpenAI has continued interest in AI agent technology, with Microsoft also intrigued by the AI agent field with its “copilot for work” program that can draft emails, reports and presentations.
In collaboration with Microsoft’s Power Platform Copilot—an AI-powered assistant that makes developing apps, automations and bots easier and more streamlined—HCLTech has launched its Dynamics 365 Copilot. This copilot is an AI-powered assistant that helps users in sales service, marketing and supply chain management to be more organized and productive.
“We have been working on AI and some of the work that we are doing, starting from the chips that are required for AI—all of that has been happening in the company for the last several years, I think a lot of conversations currently are around the level of innovation that is possible using generative AI,” HCLTech CEO & Managing Director C Vijayakumar said during an interview with CNBC. “We have close to 70 projects, including internal and external projects, in proof of concept (POC) implementation and various phases.”