In an interview with Nikkei Asian Review in Tokyo, Microsoft President Brad Smith said that Chinese research institutions and companies will be major competitors to ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI, in which Microsoft is the largest investor.
Brad Smith said China would not be far behind US tech giants such as Amazon and Google in the development of generative AI (artificial intelligence). Generative AI is a technology that generates content such as text and images, a technology that has huge potential in areas such as business, the arts, education and healthcare, but has also raised concerns that it could replace many jobs, spread misinformation, violate copyright and compromise privacy and sensitive information.
“We see three organisations that are at the absolute forefront,” Brad Smith said, “one is OpenAI and Microsoft, the second is Google and the third is the Beijing Institute of Artificial Intelligence.” When it comes to innovation, he said, “Who is ahead and who is behind may vary at different times of the year, but one thing is absolutely constant: the gap is almost always measured in months rather than years.” He calls the race “very close”.
Brad Smith argues that the solution to the problems this technology can create is not to stop innovating, but to use and improve on existing products. Like other technologies, AI can be both a tool and a weapon, he said, citing cyber attacks as an example.
“We should absolutely assume that certain countries will use AI to launch more powerful cyber-attacks and cyber-influence operations than we see even today,” he warned, “and we find that when the technology is innovated properly, it can actually enhance defensive capabilities, rather than offensive capabilities.”
Brad Smith’s visit to Japan coincides with a meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) industrial nations in Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has already said that Japan will lead in setting the rules when it comes to artificial intelligence. Earlier this month, Kishida also met with Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, to discuss how to protect the privacy and security of users.
On the business side, Japan has already started to make use of ChatGPT technology. The country’s three largest banks are using it to reduce workloads, such as answering internal queries and reducing paperwork. Insurance companies such as Tokyo Marine are developing an artificial intelligence system based on the ChatGPT platform to provide policyholders and insurance agents with draft answers to queries.
Brad Smith said the technology could address one of the biggest challenges facing Asia: labour shortages. “The working age population must support more people who have retired and are dependent on the economic growth of the working population. We urgently need to find new sources of productivity growth,” he said, “there is no other way to increase GDP.”