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AI Brand Strategy ChatGPT

Marketing experts respond to proposed AI pause: ‘this is an uncommonly good idea’

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By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

April 3, 2023 | 7 min read

An open letter signed by Elon Musk, Max Tegmark and others urge AI labs to put the brakes on the training of powerful AI models for a minimum of six months. We asked marketers (and ChatGPT) to find out how such a halt could affect the advertising industry.

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A new open letter urges a “pause for at least six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4. / Adobe Stock

Developments in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) are moving a little too quickly, according to a new open letter.

The letter, titled “Pause giant AI experiments” and published on March 22 by the Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit organization concerned with mitigating existential risks facing humanity – and especially such risks associated with AI – makes the case that AI research is outpacing our ability to implement protective guardrails.

Leading AI companies have become engaged in a dangerous arms race, the authors of the open letter argue, inexorably leading the world to “ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.” The letter urges caution, as opposed to a careless march into a potentially dangerous future: “powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable,” the authors write.

The letter also entreats “all AI labs to immediately pause for at least six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.” (Released last month by OpenAI, GPT-4 is the large language model that powers the popular chatbot ChatGPT.)

As of Monday morning, the letter has received more than 3,100 signatures. The list of prominent signatories includes Tesla and Spacex founder and CEO Elon Musk (who has long been publicly voicing his concerns about AI), author Yuval Noah Harari, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Canadian AI researcher and Turing Award winner Yoshua Bengio, Skype co-founder Yaan Tallinn, MIT professor and Future of Life Institute president Max Tegmark and Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (the nonprofit that oversees the Doomsday Clock) president Rachel Bronson.

On Friday, Italy became the first Western country to ban ChatGPT, citing privacy concerns.

How might this backlash against AI research impact the advertising industry? We asked marketing experts – and ChatGPT – to learn more:

Paul Roetzer, founder and chief executive officer, Marketing AI Institute: “While I agree with a number of the concerns and recommendations in the letter, I don’t see a universal six-month pause as a realistic outcome given the competitive environment among nations and corporations, and the division within the AI research community over the best path forward. However, even if we were to pause AI technology in its current state, the impact on the marketing industry would be profound. Generative AI technologies are already transforming knowledge work and creativity at a rate beyond which professionals, businesses, and society can adapt. While companies will see dramatic increases in efficiency and productivity, the impact that [advances in AI] will have on the economy and workforce is unclear. We are entering a very disruptive and uncertain time in the [AI] industry. We need a greater sense of urgency to ask the hard questions, and a willingness to collaborate on establishing shared values, principles and regulations.”

James Huerta, executive director of creative technology, Havas CX: “The [Future of Life Institute’s] open letter is a very rational and reasonable idea. It’s important to go beyond the clickbait titles and understand that the immediate concern is not Skynet-level dystopia; it’s simply that we cannot possibly know the impact that [advanced AI systems] can have on many individual aspects of our lives and society ... Our current Havas strategy for generative AI already limits the possibility that any of our clients’ customers would ever see anything generated by AI that had not been thoroughly reviewed by humans, and we’ve been proponents of human supervision for AI going back to the establishment of our AI practice in 2016. The current [AI] tools are more than sufficient for our immediate needs. Others may argue that six months is a lifetime, but given what’s at stake, let’s all agree that this is an uncommonly good idea.”

Brian Yamada, chief innovation officer, VMLY&R: “I think it’s healthy for the [marketing] industry to consider what it’s unleashing, but I likewise think this is critically important tech to advance and to do so responsibly. That said, this letter won’t dramatically affect our AI strategy. We (and our parent company, WPP) strongly believe in Responsible AI. Strive for transparency and ethics in what we do for our clients and ourselves. So this letter is a good reminder and re-enforcement of those beliefs.”

Ashish Toshniwal, founder and chief executive officer, YML: “In tech, we always underestimate what we can achieve in the long run, but overestimate what we can do in the short term. The work behind AI has been underway for years, but ChatGPT exposes the potential of AI for the first time to the everyday person, and clearly, the hype is real ... I’m sure there are threats [regarding] AI development that we are not aware of right now. However, pausing development would be highly speculative. This momentum right now is breeding all kinds of progress across various services and industries – as well as many changes that people and companies alike will struggle to quickly adapt to. But that is the arc of technology’s impact on culture. We will pivot AI technology, create guardrails as necessary and continue to build for change. It makes me think of the surge of mobile, and how too much screen time has proven to disconnect children from valuable social interactions. However, that does not mean that the growth of mobile has ever paused. As a parent, I put guardrails around how much screen time my kids get and the kind of content they watch; that’s an approach that took time to develop.”

ChatGPT (responding to the prompt: “How would a six-month pause to AI research impact the marketing industry? Please answer in fewer than 200 words.”): A six-month pause to AI research could delay the development of AI-powered marketing technologies such as chatbots, recommendation engines and voice-activated search, impacting the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Companies that rely on AI to gain insights into consumer behavior and make data-driven marketing decisions may struggle to do so, resulting in less targeted and effective marketing strategies. A pause in AI research could also lead to a reduction in investment and funding for AI-related projects in the marketing industry, slowing down overall progress and development.

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