The opportunities and pitfalls of generative artificial intelligence (AI) have yet to be fully felt by businesses, no matter the vertical.
“Companies have finally gotten to the point where they’ve all taken a deep breath,” said Sarkissian.
Even the biggest companies may have felt like the proverbial deer in the headlights, confronting a technological disruption that seemed to have sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus (and yet, firms like Google have been working on the technology for years).
The genie’s out of the bottle. Generative AI is used to produce content and data, and outbound content is often difficult to distinguish from human-generated content, leading to a world where trust in data and content is at an all-time low.
But it’s time now to refocus and develop an AI strategy that is core to enterprises’ central missions. No matter the ways and means in which AI is being harnessed, it’s incumbent on firms to mull how they can enhance value rather than just chase a trend, he said.
At a high level, generative AI has the potential to create a new data layer, like when HTTP was created and gave rise to the internet beginning in the 1990s. As with any new data layer or protocol, governance, rules and standards must apply, Sarkissian said.
From a regulatory standpoint, there is a need to create an arena in which everyone can compete but with some level of control to ensure that the technology is not destructive. Sarkissian suggested that governments want to come in and say, “How do we create a playing field in which everybody can compete, but we put a bit of a harness around it, such that they compete in a way that makes sense, in a way that it doesn’t destroy the world and in a way that we can actually see?”
It is up to the industry to find ways to harness the power of generative AI while minimizing its potential for harm.
The European Union has passed legislation to ensure the safety and ethical use of AI systems. However, some experts argue that the EU may have been too quick to regulate and perhaps rein in AI, potentially hindering the industry’s growth and innovation.
Sarkissian said the EU may have shoehorned AI regulation into an existing GDPR regulation, rather than going deeper to create a more comprehensive regulatory framework.
The industry has been unable to self-regulate, leading to calls for government intervention. Sarkissian said the competitive nature of the industry could lead to a race in AI development, where companies prioritize speed and efficiency over safety and ethical considerations.
“It tends to be the Valley’s mantra for better or worse in most industries, and it’s OK because the damage and negativity that could come out of that is pretty minimal,” Sarkissian said. “This is far too existential. This could create an existential threat.”
Generative AI poses a unique challenge when it comes to regulation, as determining the source of content and its accuracy is difficult. This has significant implications for businesses that rely on AI-generated content, as well as for individuals who consume it.
“You actually get very nicely organized, coherent feedback, but you don’t really know the source of any of it,” he said. “And if you’re not really an expert, you don’t know if it’s wrong.”
“So, you continue to sort of pass on things that are incorrect,” Webster said. “That’s what I worry about.”
The regulation of AI will have far-reaching effects on the industry and the broader economy. The industry must work together to establish best practices and standards to prevent negative regulation (and in the U.S., legislation will likely be piecemeal, he said).
“For the good of the industry, let’s start working together now, so it doesn’t spin off the rails and we get half-handed regulation, and nobody wants that — overly negative regulation,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to ever self-regulate, and that’s why I think the government understands it.”
Transparency in AI-generated content is crucial to establish trust between businesses and their customers. Sarkissian drew an analogy to SSL certification, stating that just as SSL certification provides a secure connection between a website and its users, transparency in AI-generated content can establish trust between businesses and their customers. Webster added that the potential for a new data layer in AI-generated content could provide even more information and establish even greater trust.
However, the potential for AI-generated content to disrupt search has raised concerns about protecting content and authenticity. Sarkissian stated that SEO optimization in AI-generated content is necessary to ensure that businesses can protect their content and maintain their authenticity in the face of this disruption.
Looking ahead, there’s a place for generative AI to become an embedded part of the tech that runs any business, large or small. The key, Sarkissian told Webster, is to make sure the genie that has been let out of the bottle is “productive and not destructive.”