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Artificial Intelligence

On the afternoon of Feb. 9, 1964, a group of young men from Liverpool, England, ducked out of the chill wind and freezing temperatures of Manhattan’s theater district into the gothic vestibule of CBS Television’s Studio 50. That night, the Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, debuting in front of an American audience of 73 million. This moment has come to be regarded as a watershed event, marking a decisive shift in the course of cultural history.

On Nov. 30, 2022, an American artificial intelligence research laboratory called OpenAI announced the release of a large language model-based chatbot called ChatGPT. The new ChatGPT, available only as an early release, was a sibling to its earlier model InstructGPT. It allowed users to interact conversationally by giving prompts and asking follow-up questions. The release of ChatGPT introduced a wider audience to a new type of technology known as generative artificial intelligence.

Events can appear singular, but they are not. Both the debut of the Beatles for an American audience and the release of ChatGPT were the products and culminations of a series of preceding events, stories and developments. The Beatles provided a new take on existing American music, reinterpreting and repackaging elements from the blues and other Black musical traditions, via Liverpool and Hamburg. Similarly, OpenAI did not invent the transformer technology on which generative AI is based. ChatGPT wasn’t the first chatbot, but its ease-of-use and user-friendly interface drew widespread attention.

Even when we feel history in the making, we cannot know the full implications for society. But it’s clear that we are living through another watershed event. Just as the Beatles redefined rock music, the advent of commercially available generative AI is poised to permanently change the landscape of human-machine interactions. Teenagers may not be screaming in ecstasy, but the cultural impact will be similarly large. 

At S&P Global, we aim to facilitate a conversation with the market. The biggest need at this point is for transparency in the face of both the fear and the hype surrounding generative AI. At the same time, this landscape is ever-changing. Our view is that these technological advancements are equally important to economic development as other major trends like globalization, social inclusion, and climate and energy transition. We aim to provide this information in three parts: 

1. AI Fundamentals — primers on fundamental technologies and how they can be used

2. AI Applications — exploration of pertinent issues emanating from the use of AI in various sectors, geographies and economies, both current and prospective, and relevant opportunities and risks

3. AI Governance and Regulation — considerations for governance structures that may help manage, diffuse or at least come to terms with various risk implications raised in the Fundamentals and Applications sections 

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