The Economic Potential of generative AI
To grasp what lies ahead requires an understanding of the breakthroughs that have enabled
the rise of generative AI, which were decades in the making. ChatGPT, GitHub Copilot, Stable
Diffusion, and other generative AI tools that have captured current public attention are the
result of significant levels of investment in recent years that have helped advance machine
learning and deep learning. This investment undergirds the AI applications embedded in many
of the products and services we use every day.
But because AI has permeated our lives incrementally—through everything from the tech
powering our smartphones to autonomous-driving features on cars to the tools retailers use
to surprise and delight consumers—its progress was almost imperceptible. Clear milestones,
such as when AlphaGo, an AI-based program developed by DeepMind, defeated a world
champion Go player in 2016, were celebrated but then quickly faded from the public’s
ChatGPT and its competitors have captured the imagination of people around the world
in a way AlphaGo did not, thanks to their broad utility—almost anyone can use them to
communicate and create—and preternatural ability to have a conversation with a user.
The latest generative AI applications can perform a range of routine tasks, such as the
reorganization and classification of data. But it is their ability to write text, compose music,
and create digital art that has garnered headlines and persuaded consumers and households
to experiment on their own. As a result, a broader set of stakeholders are grappling with
generative AI’s impact on business and society but without much context to help them make
sense of it.