ChatGPT’s first year marked by existential fear, lawsuits and boardroom drama

Cointelegraph reflects on the artificial intelligence pause that never happened, a lawsuit that could change the entire AI industry, and the Sam Altman firing and rehiring drama.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT is, by the numbers, the most popular artificial intelligence (AI) tool in the world. It was launched a year ago, on Nov. 30, 2022, and catapulted to 100 million monthly users within its first three months.

On its one-year anniversary, ChatGPT now boasts 100 million weekly users, and according to Google Trends data, it is currently at the height of its global popularity.

In just 12 months, ChatGPT’s existence has contributed to narratives surrounding the extinction of humankind, accusations that OpenAI built it by allegedly committing mass-scale copyright infringement, and a tumultuous CEO firing and rehiring that pundits are still trying to understand.

ChatGPT’s existential threat to humanity

In March 2023, thousands of researchers, CEOs, academics and pundits involved in the field of AI signed an open letter calling on AI developers around the world to pause the development of any AI systems that are more powerful than GPT-4 for at least six months, sharing concerns that “human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity,” among other things.

While the efficacy and viability of a global, self-imposed pause on AI development is still being debated, the letter had almost no discernable impact on the industry. OpenAI and its competitors, such as Anthropic, Google and Elon Musk — one of the signatories advocating for the pause — continued to develop their respective AI endeavors throughout 2023.

In the case of Musk, his chatbot and self-professed ChatGPT competitor, Grok, was launched nearly six months to the day after the billionaire mogul signed the letter.

A lawsuit’s existential threat to ChatGPT

A class-action lawsuit involving a group of authors, including John Grisham and George R.R. Martin, got underway in September. The outcome of this particular case could, eventually, have an outsized impact on the entire field of AI.

The authors are suing OpenAI for alleged copyright infringement. They claim the company violated copyright by training ChatGPT on their works without crediting, licensing or permission. In doing so, argue the lawyers representing them, OpenAI jeopardized their livelihood. They seek damages of up to $150,000 for each piece of work where copyright is infringed.

Related: Amazon launches ‘Q’ — a ChatGPT competitor purpose-built for business

Why it matters: While the fines could potentially be substantial depending on how many individual books the plaintiffs allege were unlawfully used to train ChatGPT, the more important issue will be whether OpenAI and other companies can continue training on data scraped from the internet.

It’s likely beyond the scope of this case to determine the future of ChatGPT, but a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could set a precedent that ultimately restricts a company’s ability to monetize publicly available data. This could, hypothetically, serve as a poison pill for large language models as, by and large, the scale of a model’s data set has so far been among the most determinant factors governing its capabilities.

Who’s the boss (at OpenAI)?

Meanwhile, OpenAI’s board appears to have committed 2023’s biggest unforced error in executive hiring and firings.

In the span of only four days, the company’s board of directors managed to fire CEO and cofounder Sam Altman, replace him with chief technology officer Mira Murati, replace Murati with former Twitch boss Emmett Shear, and then rehire Sam Altman to replace Shear amid a board shakeup.

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