On Thursday, March 16, Microsoft is planning to reveal more of its grand scheme for implementing AI chatbot ChatGPT’s features into yet more aspects of our lives – specifically, how the tech firm has big plans to “reinvent productivity with AI”.
Besides being utterly meaningly corporate marketing jargon, this notion of ‘reinventing productivity’ is concerning at best, especially since we don’t know what it actually entails yet. Speculation is rife that Microsoft plans to integrate ChatGPT into the Microsoft 365 (formerly Office) software suite, along with the Dynamics 365 suite for enterprise use.
This comes hot on the heels of Microsoft shoving the chatbot into almost everything it owns. Starting out with the integration of ChatGPT into Bing and following rapidly with AI-powered additions to Skype and the Windows 11 taskbar, Microsoft has been going hard when it comes to AI in its software.
We had already speculated about the ways in which ChatGPT could transform Microsoft’s consumer software suite, so it’s not like this is a huge surprise. However, I’m worried about the whole prospect; Microsoft is rushing into its AI implementation plan, and it’s going to cause more problems than it solves.
The AI arms race
Microsoft’s apparent desire to shoehorn AI features into yet more of its products is likely a response to competitor Salesforce’s own moves in partnering up with ChatGPT creator OpenAI to bring the chatbot to Slack (as well as Snapchat introducing its own AI chatbot) This sort of reactionary decisionmaking is rarely a wise move, especially when it involves AI.
ChatGPT has already proven itself to be, well, problematic. Whether it’s being used to commit cybercrime or create spurious photography competition entries, AI poses some very serious risks. Many of these problems are caused by human abuse of AI software, but tools like ChatGPT have their own failings too.
We’re witnessing a real-time arms race to cram AI tech into every aspect of our lives, and I wouldn’t trust Microsoft (or any huge tech company, like Google or Meta) to be the harbingers of this chatbot renaissance. Right now, Microsoft is demonstrating a lack of caution when it comes to ChatGPT and AI in general, especially since it’s a space yet to see serious regulation from major governments.
I will admit that AI coming to the 365 suite is actually a much less horrible idea than, say, letting ChatGPT make video content. The ability to ask ChatGPT something simple like ‘add some animations to my PowerPoint presentation’ or ‘reformat this text document as a letter’ is both useful and relatively non-threatening – though the potential for Microsoft Word to simply write content for you is a bit concerning, especially for the academic space.
I’m not saying that ChatGPT being added to these tools is going to ruin our lives, but it has issues – and I’m definitely not convinced that Microsoft is taking all the right precautions here. This is a situation where caution will be rewarded; Google isn’t letting people get up close and personal with its new AI just yet, and Microsoft themselves had to limit the Bing chatbots replies after a whole load of weirdness from the AI. Charging ahead with more AI tools right now? Not a good look.