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Opinion: One year after its public launch, ChatGPT has succeeded in igniting a new era in tech

Originally Published: Nov. 30, 2023 at 7:30 a.m. ET

OpenAI launched ChatGPT one year ago, and the tech world hasn’t looked back. AFP/GETTY IMAGE
OpenAI launched ChatGPT one year ago, and the tech world hasn’t looked back. AFP/GETTY IMAGE

It was called an “iPhone moment” for artificial intelligence, likened to the development of the World Wide Web for the internet, dubbed a Cambrian explosion, equated to the invention of the lightbulb or the printing press.

Whatever the superlatives, there is no doubt that the debut one year ago of a very fast and fluid chatbot called ChatGPT, even with its inaccuracies, has become the most important moment for Silicon Valley since the the debut of Apple Inc.’s AAPL iPhone in 2007 — or even the dot-com boom years earlier.

“It might be the most important human invention ever,” said Jerry Kaplan, an entrepreneur, author, AI expert and Stanford University adjunct lecturer, at a discussion sponsored by Reinvent Futures this summer. “We have created a tool that can use tools. That is a very fundamental difference, and we have crossed that boundary.”

ChatGPT, using a technology called generative AI, and its latest iterations and copycats have upended the hierarchies of nearly every technology sector, including semiconductors, consumer, hardware, software and the cloud, while prompting companies in farther-out sectors, like dining and energy, to tout their AI efforts as well. It also has had a huge effect on Wall Street and the stocks of companies deemed to be winners and losers in AI.

The technology has also rekindled the startup community, especially in San Francisco, with new ideas and funding, bucking an overall downturn in venture-capital financing, and bringing hopes for future IPOs.

ChatGPT wasn’t the first chatbot to go viral. Just six years ago, some of you might remember Microsoft Corp.’s MSFT

ill-fated Tay, a chatbot that was launched on Twitter and then pulled by the software giant 16 hours later, after it began spewing offensive tweets as responses, as it learned by offensive comments made to it in tweets.

Last year’s release of ChatGPT-3, though, revolutionized the AI field by making it accessible to many to use for mundane, or even creative, writing tasks. Ethan Mollick, an associate professor at the Wharton School, wrote in the Harvard Business Review a year ago that ChatGPT was a tipping point for AI, because it crossed a threshold where “it is generally useful for a wide range of tasks, from creating software to generating business ideas to writing a wedding toast.”

The business world jumped on its potential and has not looked back since. Companies are experimenting and using AI to eliminate jobs and become more efficient. Morgan Stanley said last month that it believes 44% of the labor force will be affected over the next few years, with an economic impact of $2.1 trillion, eventually soaring to $4.1 trillion.

“Every industry, not just IT, every industry is talking about it or talking about how to integrate into their business,” said Haibing Lu, a professor and department chair of information systems and analytics at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. “AI is on the radar of every business. I even talked to people in the winery biz. They are very traditional…but even those small business think about how AI will impact their business. Everyone realizes the impact of AI.” Companies began looking at bringing AI into their systems, leading to a massive IT investment in both their onsite data centers and in cloud computing systems, in a rush to add the massive computing power needed to run AI. Earlier this year, IDC predicted that spending by companies on AI-centric systems would reach $153 billion this year, with banking and retail leading the way, a jump of almost 27% from 2022. Companies in the thick of it, like chip makers Nvidia Corp. NVDA , Broadcom Inc.

AVGO and software giant Microsoft, which invested in OpenAI in 2019, have seen their stocks soar 229%, 70% and 60%, respectively, this year.Nvidia is the true standout, providing graphics processors designed to run large language models and training applications for AI-focused data centers that its chief executive, Jensen Huang, calls “AI factories.” It has seen its revenue double, and then triple in the past two quarters compared with a year ago, as it is swamped with demand for its chips and software.

“Companies are now creating the ‘chief AI officer,'” said David Borish, an AI strategist. “I get pinged about that all the time.” The role of a chief AI strategist or an AI officer is a new role, he said.




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