Beds Are Burning
The art behind conversational AI going from niche to mainstream
In the 80’s, band members from the politically-progressive Australian rock band Midnight Oil toured the Australian countryside.
As they did, they discovered poor conditions surrounding Aboriginal settlements, some resulting from forced relocation, others resulting from neglect and lack of public awareness, but all unacceptable.
In writing Beds Are Burning, the band believed they had penned a simple tune that would help spread the word locally within Australia of these concerns.
In actuality, they wrote what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame considers one of the top 500 songs that helped shape rock and roll, reaching #1 in numerous countries across the world.
Reaching this lofty status requires mass appeal, which the song’s message decidedly lacks. It’s a song about a niche political cause in a singular country.
But by attaching that niche message to undeniable art, it became global.
I’m not sure if y’all feel the way I do.
I am tired of hearing about ChatGPT.
I am tired of talking about ChatGPT.
I am tired of thinking about ChatGPT.
Am I allowed to stop yet? I need somebody to tell me.
As part of Digital Book World 2023, the annual publishing technology conference we own, I moderated a conversation with top publishing executives Laini Brown (Hachette) and Lisa Lucas (Penguin Random House).
Toward the end, with little time remaining in the session, I asked both to provide a one-word “word association” answer - whatever word first came to their minds when I said that GPT4 would be capable of writing a 60k word book extemporaneously.
Laini went first: “NOPE!”
The room laughed. So did I.
As good an indication as any of where that industry sits, with regards to ChatGPT.
Just this week, news has emerged of OpenAI paying Kenyan workers less than $2/hour to clean up ChatGPT and make it “less toxic.”
This story was the opening topic of conversation in this week’s This Week In Voice podcast (Season 8, Episode 1) which can be viewed here (featuring guests Joti Balani of Freshriver.ai, Peter Suma of Applied Brain Research, and Jason Banks of nVoq).
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of human beings hired to censor / moderate / scrub a platform of terrible content.
But unlike Facebook, OpenAI has created something in ChatGPT that is approachable, useful, and even…fun.
So the ethics conversations around the product are harder to have.
Will Rogers once said “you can tell another person anything you want, as long as you’re funny.”
The idea being that artistic value can render a challenging message suddenly uncontroversial, and thereby available for mainstream acceptability.
ChatGPT being innovative and useful is not why the product has gone all across the world, igniting a supernova of media coverage. There’s plenty of dead and dying products and services that are incredibly useful.
The reason all the attention became possible is that the product entertains us at the same time it delivers utility.
We’re used to huge companies getting tons of free press. We’re not used to smaller startups getting this much attention. OpenAI has done it in the most unassuming way possible, devoid of bold proclamations, dumb political ideology, or self-produced marketing events.
They’ve simply delivered a conversational AI alchemy of art alongside science that has captivated the world, taking conversational AI from niche to mainstream.
Doesn’t mean I want to keep talking about it, though. Or with it, for that matter.
Project Voice Capital Partners Rolling Fund enables accredited and qualified investors to subscribe to our deal flow on a quarterly basis. Learn more here.
Project Voice 2023 will have some news next week, with a new tagline (“The World of Conversational AI”) and a more streamlined schedule. Watch for that Monday.
And finally, version 1.1 of the Conversational AI Industry Landscape Map with numerous changes and additions will be released Monday, January 30. A much larger update, with version 1.2 that will include an interactive web version, will be launched in tandem with Project Voice 2023 itself.