Generative AI is a unique disruption to news media

By Jessica Spiegel


Portland, Oregon, United States


There’s no doubt generative AI is all the rage these days. What its skyrocketing use means for journalism and news media publishers, however, depends a bit on who you talk to. 

Jaspreet Bindra, the founder and CEO of The Tech Whisperer, shared some of his thoughts on both the challenges and opportunities generative AI presents to news publishers during the recent INMA South Asia News Media Summit.

Bindra began by echoing one of INMA CEO/Executive Director Earl Wilkinson’s points from his introductory presentation — that this is less about digital transformation as it is about generative AI being “the next step in the transformation of digital.”

AI itself, he pointed out, isn’t a new technology. It’s just that generative AI is a radical shift in AI technology. Not only is it an entirely new kind of tech, it’s also the first AI to be widely used by people outside the tech community: “We’ve had several ‘disruptions’ that have either threatened or promised to disrupt the way we do business. But this one feels different.”

Jaspreet Bindra, the founder and CEO of The Tech Whisperer, explained why the generative AI disruption is different than other tech disruptions.
Jaspreet Bindra, the founder and CEO of The Tech Whisperer, explained why the generative AI disruption is different than other tech disruptions.

ChatGPT, for instance, hit the 100 million users mark in only two months. No other recent tech even comes close to that speed of growth. This is partially due to the fact that generative AI relevance reaches beyond a single industry. It’s “not just finance people talking about AI,” Bindra said. “It runs across functions and industries.”

Further proof of the global implications of AI is the G7 Summit in May: AI was one of only three topics on the agenda (along with Ukraine and China).

“For the first time, probably, we have a technology that is based on language, on words,” Bindra said. “This is radical and remarkable. Language seems to be the one thing that separates humans from other species, and here’s a new ‘species’ coming in that trains itself on language.”

Generative AI seems to be “operating more in a cognitive space where we thought human beings were supreme or unique creatively,” he continued. It’s not just about using AI to automate basic functions anymore. It’s why “we see some media companies using GenAI to create news, replacing writers.”

Bindra quoted an April 2023 tweet by Kent Beck: “I’ve been reluctant to try ChatGPT. Today I got over that reluctance. Now I understand why I was reluctant. The value of 90% of my skills just dropped to $0. The leverage for the remaining 10% went up 1000x. I need to recalibrate.”

Increased use of generative AI in news media means people who are skilled at using generative AI will be increasingly important to have on the team, Bindra said.

Bindra discussed what he thinks of as “fundamental facts” about generative AI that everyone should keep in mind.

  1. Generative AI is all about exactly what’s implied in the name: generating. It’s not a search engine, he said. ChatGPT is “a thought engine.”

  2. Generative AI “will not replace you — a person using it will,” he emphasised, “so you’d better be the person using it.”

  3. While the horizontals (like ChatGPT) are interesting, it’s the verticals that will be truly useful.

  4. Generative AI will be “as transformative as search, e-mail, and social networking, and will reshape Big Tech.”

  5. Generative AI is not Artificial General Intelligence — at least not yet.

Generative AI does have its limitations.
Generative AI does have its limitations.

While a lot of the hype around ChatGPT is warranted, Bindra stressed the importance of saying “clear-eyed” about its limitations. Generative AI is only as knowledgeable as its training data, he said, so any issues with the training data will create problematic output: “We know about its impressive hallucination capabilities. It’s optimised for plausibility or believability rather than truth.” 

There are already instances in which biassed training data led to biassed generative AI output, not to mention the numerous copyright and intellectual property issues that have been flagged. And, while some of the problems with generative AI are “very human traits” as well, Bindra said news media needs to be very careful about proceeding without considering these and other ethical issues — and the people behind the tech agree. 

“This is the first tech in my living memory where the inventors of the technology are saying we can’t just let it be decided by market forces,” he said. “We need to regulate this technology because of the potential it has for super intelligence but also, especially in the near term, because of the potential to impact things like democracy and climate change.” 

Alexandr Wang, founder of Scale AI, points to the uniqueness of this tech moment.
Alexandr Wang, founder of Scale AI, points to the uniqueness of this tech moment.

Generative AI exploded in popularity with such force and speed that there’s unringing this bell. Bindra quoted a tweet by Alexandr Wang, founder of Scale AI, who said that, in tech, “there are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen.” It’s an exciting period in technology that will impact the whole world — but now that it’s commonplace, Bindra said, “ethics around AI are even more important.”

About Jessica Spiegel

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