CIO SA tech news round-up: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates believes AI is the most important development of our age, ChatGPT experiences hour-long outage, and more


Bill Gates shares thoughts on AI in latest blog post

Artificial intelligence is as revolutionary as mobile phones and the Internet,” said Bill Gates in a recent blog post. Gates was writing about the technology used by tools such as chatbot ChatGPT.

“It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other,” he added.

ChatGPT is an AI chatbot created by OpenAI that is programmed to answer questions online in natural, human-like language. In January 2023, the team behind it received a multibillion-dollar investment from Microsoft, where Gates remains an advisor.

However, it is not the only AI-powered chatbot available; Google recently introduced competitor Bard.

The Microsoft founder said that he has been meeting with OpenAI, the team behind the artificial intelligence that powers ChatGPT, since 2016.

In his blog, Bill stated that in 2022, he challenged the OpenAI team to train an AI capable of passing an Advanced Placement (AP) biology exam – roughly equivalent to an A-level exam – with the strict condition that the AI not be specifically trained to answer biology questions.

A few months later, they revealed the results, which he described as “near perfect,” with only one mark out of 50 missing.

Following the exam, Mr Gates stated that he instructed the AI to write a response to a father with a sick child.

“It wrote a thoughtful answer that was probably better than most of us in the room would have given,” he said. “I knew I had just seen the most important advance in technology since the graphical user interface (GUI).” A GUI is a visual display – allowing a person to interact with images and icons, rather than a display that shows only text and requires typed commands.

Its development led to the Windows and Mac OS operating systems in the 1980s, and remains a key part of computing.

He urged governments to collaborate with industry to “limit the risks” of AI, but added that the technology could save lives.

ChatGPT experiences hour-long outage

This week, the “trusted” AI chatbot ChatGPT left many people stranded after it crashed, rendering users all over the world unable to use the AI chatbot. According to Down Detector, the issues began around 08.45am GMT and affected users worldwide.

While the cause of the outage is unknown, 82 percent of those who reported problems said they were having problems with ChatGPT, 11 percent with login, and seven percent with the website.

Users took to social media to express their disappointment at not being able to access the groundbreaking artificial intelligence tool. OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, has yet to provide a reason for the outage.

Microsoft launches Microsoft 365 Copilot: your copilot at work

Last week, Microsoft announced the release of Microsoft 365 Copilot, which brings the power of next-generation AI to its workplace productivity tools. Copilot, which is currently being tested with a small number of commercial customers, combines the power of large language models (LLMs) with business data and Microsoft 365 apps.

Copilot will support Microsoft 365 customers in two ways: For starters, it is embedded in Microsoft 365 apps that people use every day, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Teams, and others.

The company also announced Business Chat, which integrates with the LLM, the Microsoft 365 apps, and a customer’s calendar, emails, chats, documents, meetings, and contacts to enable people to do things they couldn’t before. Natural language prompts such as “tell my team how we updated the product strategy” will generate a status update based on the morning’s meetings, emails, and chat threads.

The customer is always in command with the Copilot. Customers choose what to keep, change, or discard. People can be more creative in Word, more analytical in Excel, more expressive in PowerPoint, more productive in Outlook, and more collaborative in Teams with these new tools.

“Copilot combines the power of large language models with your data and apps to turn your words into the most powerful productivity tool on the planet,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president, Modern Work and Business Applications, Microsoft. “By grounding in your business content and context, Copilot delivers results that are relevant and actionable.

“It’s enterprise-ready, built on Microsoft’s comprehensive approach to security, compliance, privacy and responsible AI. Copilot marks a new era of computing that will fundamentally transform the way we work.”

Adobe joins AI race with the launch of Firefly

Abode entered the AI fray this week with the release of Firefly, an AI tool that allows users to edit images by typing commands to quickly modify images.

The first Firefly model is primarily concerned with the creation of image and text effects. A product demo for a “Generate Variations” option, for example, was included in an Adobe sample video. Adobe Firefly uses AI to generate different versions of a lighthouse by highlighting an element in a multilayer work of art – in the demo video, a lighthouse.

In another example, Adobe shows how to take a picture of a summer scene and type “change scene to winter day” to change the image without requiring the user to make any changes.

Firefly can also change the photo or image that a user is working on automatically by using generative AI to create a paintbrush based on something already in the image.

Adobe’s new product arrives at a critical juncture for both Adobe and AI in general. In September, the company paid $20 billion (R371 billion) for the design tool Figma and stated that it would integrate features from other products into Figma.

Adobe said that Firefly will prioritise providing creators with “opportunities to benefit from your skills and creativity while also protecting your work”. The company already provides non-AI platforms that accomplish this.

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