Sarah Myers West is the managing director of the AI Now Institute, which studies the social implications of artificial intelligence. As West explains, ChatGPT is built on more than 60 years of chatbot innovation, starting with the ELIZA program, created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the late 1960s, and including the popular SmarterChild bot on AOL Instant Messenger in the 2000s. West expects this latest version to affect certain industries significantly—but, she says, as uncanny as ChatGPT’s emulation of human writing is, it’s still capable of only a very small subset of functions previously requiring human intelligence. This isn’t to say it represents no meaningful problems, but to West, its future—and the future of artificial intelligence altogether—will be shaped less by the technology itself and more by what humanity does to determine its use.

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