We seem to be in what I can only call an “AI lull.” The initial excitement about ChatGPT, which started in January, has receded. Google searches for ChatGPT peaked in April and are now down significantly, as is customer engagement with ChatGPT. Claude 2, a new and wonderful model released in July by Anthropic, hasn’t captured the public imagination the way ChatGPT did.
Do not be deceived. While the hype and marketing may have died down, at least on the retail side, the AI revolution marches on. And it will be just as transformative as advertised.
Every revolutionary technology has a period when it feels not so exciting after all. The dot-com crash in came in 2000, but even before that online commerce was decidedly meh. Only two years earlier Paul Krugman had observed that maybe the internet was overrated — and the thing is, in 1998, he wasn’t completely wrong.
Reaching even further back, consider the introduction of electricity into factories in the 19th century, which had many fits and starts over a period of decades. The printing press had a much larger impact on Europe in the 17th century, due to cheaper technology and paper, than it did immediately after Gutenberg’s invention in the mid-15th century.
As for generative AI: Among many of my friends and acquaintances, including my fellow academics, use has plateaued. They’ve tried it out, not always using efficacious techniques, and they are impressed (or not) to varying degrees. They view AI as a fascinating novelty — but separate from their work.
This is actually a healthy state of affairs for the development of artificial intelligence. We are being granted some time to process the advances in AI and to fathom that large-language models really can perform many tasks at high levels.