We are coming up to the end of 2023. During the past year, only one product has been released in the computing environment that I think will change our future: ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence (AI) bot released by OpenAI. It is now in its fourth iteration from its original release in November of 2022. Yes, you can prank ChatGPT by asking repetitive questions. Yes, it still has hallucinations and will give incorrect answers. Yes, you are only now getting recent data in responses (rather than the outdated original data set). And yet, people are using it in myriad ways.

Microsoft has already spent $13 billion to provide OpenAI with the resources needed to build the product. I believe that amount will likely double in the next two years. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, is “all in” on AI because he knows the more you and I use bots to help us operate our computers, the fewer people will be required to do more work. If someone can document a process and then have the AI read all the documentation associated with a topic (e.g., how to fix the problem when your computer can’t print on your wireless printer), then you don’t need a human being at a call center in India or the Philippines.

You can have a computer user open a Windows 11 CoPilot application, type their question, and engage in a question-and-answer session. The cloud-based software will walk that person through all the known steps to fix the problem. Am I worried about my job because of this? No, because despite the computer-provided hand-holding, sometimes you need a human being who has experienced “real world” problems to ask questions no one asked the AI bot. As I have seen in many demonstrations, when ChatGPT doesn’t know an answer, it cannot even say, “I don’t know,” so it provides incorrect or misleading information. That is a significant problem that still consumes the minds of the data scientists who build these models. And it is why I think we are far from having AI “take over” things.

In the same way, businesses will create AI-based products for more and more fields. Do you need an insurance quote? Of course, the preliminary questions and responses you receive will be from an AI bot. You’ve all seen the silly commercials for “Limu Emu and Doug.” After all, Liberty Mutual extols the virtues of customizing insurance so “you only pay for what you need.” How do you think they are going to handle that soon? It is simple: they will develop an AI bot to work with you. For instance, you’re a young married couple in Livingston, NJ. You own an $875,000 house with 25 years on your mortgage. You have two kids (ages 9 and 6) and lease a Tesla Model 3 and a Toyota RAV 4. Liberty Mutual will have loaded all of the ISO (Insurance Services Office) documents into their LLM (large language model) and all the appropriate New Jersey amendments. One, two, three, and you’ll have your quote. I’m not sure you will need an insurance broker until the end of the chat session (and probably only as a matter of law — which the insurance companies will try to change). Of course, a human being may find a different rate structure based on their industry knowledge — but who will you ask to qualify which one is appropriate, correct, or even valid?

Likewise, calls you would make to your primary care physician about your existing health conditions might soon be answered by a “MedChat” AI bot. Need help from Spectrum or Verizon for a problem with your TV, phone, or internet? First stop an AI bot. (I didn’t think anything could be more annoying than the IVR Spectrum has now — but that will change.) Do you need to get a mortgage from your bank? Yes, there’s going to be a bot for that. The list of applications with generalized artificial intelligence will be extensive and pervasive, so much so that some speculate that AI modeling and development will become a $63 billion industry in the next year, growing into the trillions within a decade. And what about those people who looked forward to getting call center jobs to raise themselves out of poverty? They will need to pursue completely different career paths. There is no “next level” for many of these people because building the bots is so complex they won’t have the skills necessary to get hired.

Let’s take a moment to discuss what AI will do in the education field. It isn’t going to be pretty. That’s because what you “feed” the artificial intelligence engine is what provides the basis of responses. Currently, in the United States, high school history textbooks in California contain vastly different explanations of events than those in Texas. This linked article from the New York Times is a few years old but depicts the massive “disconnect” in the study of US history. Guess what? Those same divergent viewpoints will arrive in AI history bots. Will we have a uniformly educated America? No, in fact, it will become even more divergent (and undoubtedly more strident) because some communities will not accept any artificial intelligence software in their educational system.

Two years from now, Windows 10 will go out of service. Microsoft claims that CoPilot applications will be available for Office 365 users for an extra $30 per month. Redmond has designed these apps to help businesses by reading through emails, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations. The AI bots will perform data mining of a company’s internal resources to provide additional insight and — they hope — business opportunities and streamline business deals. As an aside, I upgraded my laptop to the latest version of Windows 11 23H2 and saw that CoPilot is in beta mode on my Taskbar. I will report the results of testing in a few months. Having seen this latest change, I realize that all new Windows 11 computers require more memory than I had planned (i.e., 16 GB of RAM instead of 8 GB).

For all we know, Windows 12 will be a cloud-based AI-based agent that allows you to run Windows in any browser on any platform you want. The monthly subscription will probably put off mass adoption — because we know that the folks at Redmond are greedy. But after a while, with appropriate discounts, mass uptake will undoubtedly occur. Then, you can use an AI bot to browse your email, view websites recommended by your reading profile, and work with documents that “understand” who you are.

Yep, that’s pretty freakin’ scary stuff. I’m going to continue to guide you through this huge transition.

Thanks, and safe computing!