Catalyst 2030's
Catalysing Change Week 2024
Building the Social Innovation Sector
6 - 10 May 2024

Who’s afraid of AI?

15 May 2023 | Session Highlights

Artificial intelligence (AI) has long been on the radar. But ChatGPT is the robot that brought it in from the margins. In 2023 people want to understand AI’s uses and its risks. It’s no surprise then that one of the most anticipated CCW2023 sessions was What Does ChatGPT Mean for the Global South?

Session host, Colin McElwee, Co-Founder of Catalyst 2030 and Worldreader, shared ChatGPT’s astonishing 100 million users after two months on the market, predicting, “This is a real before and after moment for our children and our children’s children.”

From radical idea to mainstream

Speaker Chris Capossela, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Microsoft, likened the introduction of ChatGPT to personal computers, “a radical idea”, becoming mainstream. “It’s like a PC, the smartphone, even the internet being invented and people starting to figure out how can we use these things to make society a better place.

He was joined by Lindiwe Matlile, Founder of Africa Teen Geeks, who asked “how AI and machine learning could help developing countries where there are a lot of barriers, like a lack of internet access and infrastructure”.

To follow the discussion firsthand, you can watch a video recording here.

In every industry, every country

According to Chris, “Microsoft is trying to figure out how to bring it into every industry, including education, and to every country including (those) in the Global South.” To illustrate MS’s vision for education, he quoted his boss, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, asking his team to, “Imagine a world in which all eight billion people on the planet have access to a fantastic educator, just through the mobile phone that they use.” But While MS was making a transformative platform available, working with non-profits, public-private-partnerships, ministries of education would still have to happen in order to develop transformative applications, says Chris.

Takeaways from the conversation

  • ChatGPT took two months to reach 100 million users-per-month Netflix took 10 years, Twitter five years, Facebook four-and-a-half years, Instagram four years and Tiktok nine months.
  • MS is pivoting on the back of AI’s technology platform. It regards this change of technology platform as important and as foundational as the internet.
  • It is building AI’s technology into their Bing search engine, Edge search engine browser, GitHub tool for software developers and Azure cloud services.
  • People can submit health-related questions, providing symptoms, and ChatGPT4 will generate machine-authored information describing the malady as well as coming up with diagnostic solutions and the type of medication needed.
  • ChatGPT4 is creating new possibilities to transform the world in support of the SDGs, through the provision of the platform. But the transformative opportunities still have to be applied. MS has unlocked the tools to machine learning and to promoting digital literacy, but cannot not do everything. Instead a collaborative model would need to be followed. People can explore the technology to the limits of its uses to generate their own solutions.
  • Only time will tell whether the creative industries are due to be disrupted by AI and the impact of machine learning. But AI can take over the more mundane jobs, freeing up time for creativity.
  • On the question of whether jobs might be lost or gained, generative AI is more of a co-pilot than an autopilot. Machine-generated learning is actually an amplifier of human ability. Without human input there is no way it can be active on its own, so it can never do away with humans in jobs particularly in the creative sectors. People in creative industries can co-create while machine-generated learning or AI takes away the drudgery of work.
  • On whether AI can promote workplace equity, MS doesn’t have all the answers but is seeing a greater, more accelerated, technology shift.
  • Once innovation is born, regulation follows. MS believes that only once limitations have been stretched can its its impact on people and corporations be assessed. But regulations should be used as a tool, not as a weapon. Only with the regular use of Chat GPT4 can a framework of rules with the correct values become important, essential even, to overcome any potential pitfalls these new technology platforms bring us.
  • What MS is doing, where it operates, is skilling people for careers and making internet access available for the latest applications. In Africa through Microsoft Airband, an inititiative that promotes digital equity through access to skills, devices and the internet, the company aims to reach 20 million people in rural areas. But they cannot do it all. They need the local connections, with the local problems and solutions which they can apply on their platform to be able to create digital equality.

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