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BusinessDay: AI’s ‘Oh!’ moment — a giant leap for robot-kind

OpenAI’s GPT-4o model represents a watershed moment in our history.

By Johan Steyn, 22 May 2024


Neil Armstrong proclaimed the 1969 moon landing “a giant leap for mankind”, marking an unprecedented leap forward in human accomplishment. Launched last week by OpenAI, GPT-4o (the “o” being for omni) also represents a watershed moment in our history.

GPT-4o is a giant step forward in artificial intelligence (AI) research & development because it prioritises interactions that are more natural and have personality. Similarly to Armstrong’s historic stride, GPT-4o ushers in uncharted territory, posing vital concerns and possibilities for the evolution of AI.

With GPT-4o, OpenAI hopes to realise its vision of a conversational experience that is both more effective and pleasant for users by making it more entertaining and interactive. There are, however, ethical concerns that arise from this emphasis on participation and individuality. Given that GPT-4o’s goal is to more accurately mimic human emotions and behaviours, we need to ask if it will actually benefit users or if it will accidentally blur the border between humans and machines.

In a recent YouTube demo, Khan Academy showcased its ground-breaking collaboration with OpenAI, unveiling a new AI tutoring system that promises to revolutionise education. The video features Khan Academy founder Sal Khan and his son Imran, who serves as the student, highlighting the AI’s ability to guide learners through complex problems with a personalised touch.

The demonstration offers a glimpse into the future of education, where AI can play a crucial role in providing individualised support and enhancing learning experiences.

During the demo, the AI tutor assists Imran in solving a maths problem involving right-angled triangles and trigonometric ratios. Rather than simply providing the answers, the AI prompts Imran with strategic questions, encouraging him to think critically and apply his knowledge.

This interactive approach not only helps Imran grasp the concepts more effectively but also reinforces his problem-solving skills, demonstrating the potential of AI to complement traditional teaching methods.   


GPT-4o immediately inspired comparisons — including from OpenAI boss Sam Altman — to the 2013 science-fiction movie Her, which paints a vivid picture of the potential pitfalls of human-AI interaction.

In the movie, the protagonist, Theodore, becomes deeply fascinated and attached to Samantha, an AI system with a sophisticated and witty personality. Their bond blurs the lines between the real and the virtual, raising questions about the nature of love and intimacy, and the value of human-AI connection. In an article last week, the New York Times went as far as to proclaim “AI’s ‘Her’ era has arrived.”

In addition to its conversational prowess, GPT-4o’s capabilities extend to potentially passing the Turing Test, a benchmark for machine intelligence proposed by Alan Turing in 1950.

If a machine can engage in a conversation indistinguishable from a human, it is considered intelligent. According to Psychology Today, GPT-4o’s performance in various real-world applications suggests it may be approaching this milestone, pushing the boundaries of AI capabilities and raising both excitement and ethical questions about the future of AI.

As we stand on the brink of this new era, GPT-4o embodies the “Oh!” moment that signifies a giant leap for robot-kind. It is imperative that we navigate this path with ethical considerations at the forefront, ensuring that AI development prioritises human welfare and equity.

The journey ahead promises to be transformative, heralding a future where AI not only serves but also enriches human experience.


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