OpenAI, the firm behind the massively popular ChatGPT, has been working on various AI related products.
In a world with accelerated deglobalisation, ongoing irreversible climate change, where a pandemic can bring the global economy to a standstill and where geopolitics is getting fractured- in such a world technology is rapidly evolving as the major disruptor that is going to affect each of the factors above all over the world. The impact of tech is profound on society, environment, politics, and many more areas of life.
Technology is leaving few sectors untouched, if any. The ones where it is making rapid strides are Artificial Intelligence (AI), tech for space exploration, greentech to aid in the process of a more sustainable economy and in defence from a national security perspective.
Among all, it is AI that has captured the world’s imagination recently in vivid ways. OpenAI—the firm behind the massively popular ChatGPT—has been working on various AI related products for the past few years. Among their recent developments is the chatbot ChatGPT that gives remarkably accurate answers to questions posed to it and threatens to disrupt and make obsolete a number of industries such as internet search, content writing, advertisement copywriting and more. Google on its part released its own version of chatbot called Bard in an attempt to give stiff competition to ChatGPT that is otherwise threatening its business model of search. Backing all of these experiments into developing AI is the huge trove of data that has either been accumulated by the companies themselves, or is openly available on the internet or is granted as Open Data by governments, educational institutions and firms. Open data helps researchers build, develop and experiment the latest versions of AI technologies.
Technological improvements are making their mark on sustainable living as well in the form of greentech. Solar panels, carbon capture, lithium batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and several other areas of ongoing developments around the world are potentially leading us to a cleaner, greener, more sustainable lifestyle that is not at the expense of the environment but is instead complementary to it. In particular, hydrogen fuel cells are in their nascent stages and one of the most exciting & consequential developments of clean energy as they’re by-product generated was ‘waste’ output is distilled water- while at the same time not leaving hazardous waste in the form of batteries of chemicals such as in lithium-ion electric vehicles. The research & development of space-tech, from metallurgy into newer, stronger metals that can withstand extreme temperature & pressure conditions to finding new ways to grow plants in inhospitable outer space environments while protecting them from novel new risks, to reusable rockets to minimise costs requires newer combinations of heat resistant plates and innovative ideas of building a rocket are a few of the many, varied developments in the exciting space sector. In state actors, China and the US are investing vastly in their space capabilities overseeing the development and launch of ballistic missiles, thousands of artificial satellites, manned spaceflight, development of new space stations, and plans to re-explore the Moon, Mars, and the broader Solar System. Within non-state actors, companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are developing technologies by leaps and bounds. Elon Musk’s stated goal of establishing a colony on Mars is a worthy and aspirational pursuit. The 21st century will be the century of exploration into outer space—with humans reaching out to explore, inhabit and understand more of our cosmos, and thereby a little more about ourselves. Space-tech is aiding handsomely in that dream.
The defence sector too is seeing a range of developments, additions and acquisition of newer, more advanced, more sophisticated equipment and weaponry that augments the soldier in increasing ways. From fire-and-forget weapons like the Javelin making it easier to target the opponent, to highly advanced jets such as the American F-35 that incorporates some of the most advanced technologies in defence development- the development of tech in defence is only growing day by day. At the same time, newer drones that are automated by AI and can decide which person to fire upon and which to not- raise ethical questions about whether AI should be allowed and be granted this power to take human life. In particular, Japan & Germany have now re-invested and re-committed to increasing their defence spending in light of the Ukraine crisis. This is a major new development especially for Japan which had committed itself to a pacifist constitution post-WW2.
The current and coming decade is extremely important for the future of humanity when it comes to how we handle tech. On the one end of the spectrum, the ongoing developments may lead to catastrophic outcomes for the human race. On the other hand, wise and ethical decisions in this period can also lead to a period of unprecedented growth for us. Whether the result is net positive or net negative will be largely determined by whether countries and corporations can and will cooperate or not. In this prisoner’s dilemma situation, cooler and wiser heads must prevail.
Rajesh Mehta is an international affairs expert focussing on areas like market entry, innovation, geopolitics and public policy.