AI Everywhere, All the Time: Top Developments of 2023

The Year in AI From Deepfakes and Fresh Policy to Better Robots and Healthcare
AI Everywhere, All the Time: Top Developments of 2023
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Use of the phrase "artificial intelligence" quadrupled over the past year, reflecting the unprecedented influx of new users rushing to adopt increasingly functional AI-run chatbots, which only became publicly available at the end of 2022.

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What a year in AI it's been since then. As 2023 comes to a close, here are some of the major developments that defined, shaped and will likely continue to refine the AI landscape.

OpenAI and Friends

OpenAI's ChatGPT reached 100 million monthly active users in January, within three months of its launch. Its current user base is double that number. Also in January, the company bolstered its close partnership with Microsoft.

In February, ChatGPT performed "at or near the passing threshold" of the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam.

Microsoft and Google launched their own AI chatbots - Bing Chat and Bard, respectively - in the following months. In February, Microsoft introduced Copilot to integrate AI into its products, such as Word, Teams and Windows 11, featuring such functionality as the ability to automatically summarize meetings.

In March, OpenAI released GPT-4, a large language model that surpassed the previous version's accuracy. The training data for the new version comprised twice the data as its predecessor. The same month, the company suffered its first breach, which affected about 1.2 million users, or 1.2% of the ChatGPT Plus subscribers.

In November, OpenAI's board fired CEO Sam Altman, which led to several other employees resigning in protest and Microsoft offering jobs to all of them. Altman was soon reinstated by a board comprised of new members.

Better Deepfakes

A picture of Pope Francis wearing a white puffer jacket, created on image generator Midjourney, went viral in March, showing how easy it is to use AI to amuse - as well as deceive - people. Viral deepfake images and videos seen this year featured former U.S. President Donald Trump in police custody, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy asking his troops to surrender and an explosion at the Pentagon.

Policy and Governance

In March, hundreds of tech executives, researchers, academics and government representatives wrote an open letter calling for a pause of at least six months on fresh AI initiatives, warning that the potential risks of the technology include loss of civilization control, human annihilation and job destruction. "Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war," read the statement, released by the nonprofit Center for AI Safety.

U.S. President Joe Biden in October signed an executive order designed to foster the safe, secure and trustworthy development and use of AI. He also received voluntary commitments from 15 technology companies and 28 healthcare firms to support that goal.

In July, OpenAI, Google and Microsoft partnered with others to form an industry watchdog group to help regulate AI development. Many approaches remain fragmented. OpenAI is not part of another group of 50 companies, called the AI Alliance, and that alliance is not part of yet another alliance of more than 50 companies that seek to drive open innovation in the industry.

In December, EU legislators agreed on the AI Act, making the trading bloc the first in the world to comprehensively regulate the nascent technology.

Enhancing Robotics and Automation

AI-powered robots are increasingly automating tasks in manufacturing and logistics, among other industries, driving efficiency and changing the nature of work.

Some major milestones include Tesla's Optimus Bot prototype demonstrating dexterous and adaptable humanoid robots, which could shape future automation solutions. Separately, Boston Dynamics' Atlas showcased its parkour skills, paving the way for applications in search and rescue or disaster response.

Improving Healthcare

The AlphaFold 2 AI system, developed by Alphabet subsidiary DeepMind, can perform predictions of protein structure, and stands to revolutionize drug discovery and personalized medicine, carrying the potential for helping mitigate numerous diseases. Robotic surgery systems grow ever more sophisticated, while AI-powered prosthetics offer amputees greater control and functionality. AI algorithms are already assisting doctors in medical diagnosis for diseases such as cancer, offering increased accuracy and early detection possibilities. AI-powered tools for mental health diagnosis, treatment and therapy also are gaining traction, although bring their own set of challenges.

Battling Climate Change

AI played a growing role in analyzing climate data, predicting weather patterns and developing solutions for sustainability challenges such as renewable energy and resource management. On the flip side, running AI systems causes issues that could exacerbate climate change, given their giant power consumption and need for cooling water.

AI in Cybersecurity and Threat Detection

AI-powered security solutions are becoming increasingly sophisticated, improving cyberattack detection and prevention. Hackers are also testing AI for nefarious activities, albeit at a slower pace than initially thought.

Previewing the Future

The coming year will likely include more global AI governance discussions that will focus on international collaboration, and policy discussions aimed at tackling responsible and fair AI development on a global scale. Ethical AI initiatives are likely to gain more traction to better mitigate bias, ensure fairness and promote transparency in AI systems. Reskilling and upskilling in the face of job displacement concerns will remain critical.

About the Author

Rashmi Ramesh

Rashmi Ramesh

Assistant Editor, Global News Desk, ISMG

Ramesh has seven years of experience writing and editing stories on finance, enterprise and consumer technology, and diversity and inclusion. She has previously worked at formerly News Corp-owned TechCircle, business daily The Economic Times and The New Indian Express.

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