Will AI be bigger than the internet? How one Utah lawmaker is thinking about the future
‘I’ve been following different iterations of AI, but when ChatGPT came out, it really was a game-changer,’ Moss told KSL.com
Editor's note: This is part of a KSL.com series looking at the rise of artificial intelligence technology tools such as ChatGPT, the opportunities and risks they pose and what impacts they could have on various aspects of our daily lives.
Like all lawmakers in Utah's citizen Legislature, House Majority Whip Jefferson Moss spends most of the year working a day job.
Moss, a Republican from Saratoga Springs, has a background in venture capital and technology, so he was quick to see the potential for artificially intelligent chatbots like ChatGPT when it was released last November. And while government as a whole can be slow to adopt new technology, Moss already sees recent breakthroughs in AI technology as huge leaps forward.
"I've been following different iterations of AI, but when ChatGPT came out, it really was a game-changer," Moss told KSL.com in March. "I think this was the first that really could show the power of it. I've seen some AI that do translational services or you'll see some that can do interesting things, but nothing that has the potential that this has of truly being a disruptive innovation."
ChatGPT — and other similar large language models — use existing information to predict a sequence of words that should follow a particular prompt, creating impressive and sophisticated text in a matter of seconds. As with earlier technologies, advancements in artificial intelligence have been accompanied by warnings of potential downsides, including widespread job loss as automation replaces work previously done by humans.
It's too early to predict with any certainty, but Moss is optimistic that people will find ways to adapt to the technology.
"In education, it used to be somebody on a stage and you had to just listen to them. When the internet came out, there was this perception that there's no longer a need for teachers," Moss said. "Well, no, we just changed the way we do things. You can leverage technology and make your job even better; it just takes away certain pieces of it. It's how you actually use the technology and implement it that really is important."
Rather than being put out of business by AI, Moss said successful business owners will learn how to use it to automate more menial tasks. Small business owners who learn to take advantage of the technology could see huge increases in productivity by outsourcing marketing, customer service and other services to artificial intelligence, rather than hiring or contracting paid professionals.
Current technology is only going to get better, and Moss said he wouldn't be surprised if artificial intelligence ultimately has a bigger impact on society than the inception of the internet, by once again changing how most people consume information.
"Right now when you go to a website, it's very static, it's not personalized," he said. "If you build AI into search engines and websites, you can get very targeted, specific information for you that no one else is getting. And I think that's the power of AI."
Moss acknowledged that that might not always be a good thing. The internet and social media have already made it easier to spread misinformation, and artificial intelligence comes with the potential to make that even easier.
"There are some definite limitations and concerns about this. I think this is a new technology that is still emerging, but there will need to be guardrails — hopefully put on by the companies themselves — about the limitations that it could produce information that could lead to bad outcomes," he said. "I would hope that the industry will correct a lot of that and try to keep it from being too narrowly selective, but that's definitely something that will be a concern as it gets more and more popular."
As a state, Moss doesn't believe Utah is eager to begin regulating AI. Rather, he expects lawmakers to set up studies to better understand the technology, and make recommendations from there.
And while artificial intelligence could presumably be able to craft legislation or government policies in the near future, he doesn't think Utah will delegate to chatbots anytime soon.
"They've been shown to be able to pass the bar exam (for lawyers), so they clearly have the potential to do some of that," he said. "But the way we currently draft policy is a very personal, interactive process. We'll bring in stakeholders to work through the concepts together. That does take a lot of personal interaction, so I don't know if I see that in the near future."