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[Editorial] Start working on AI bill

OpenAI’s new GPT-4o model signals rapid advance, but Korea’s AI bill still sits idle

By Korea Herald

Published : May 17, 2024 - 05:29

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OpenAI, a frontrunner in generative AI technology, unveiled ChatGPT-4o, a faster and more powerful iteration of its popular chatbot, on Monday, heralding a new chapter in the fast-evolving sector that is reshaping the way people work, study and communicate.

Unfortunately, South Korea is lagging behind in the rapidly shifting global AI trend, with government officials and lawmakers stuck in a wasteful stalemate.

The updated model of OpenAI is not only “much faster” but also capable of handling text, audio and even visual data. OpenAI team members demonstrated some of the diverse features, such as the new ChatGPT model’s ability to handle interruptions in dialogue, analyze a user’s facial expression to perceive emotions and change the tone of its voice smoothly.

“This is the first time that we are really making a huge step forward when it comes to the ease of use,” OpenAI technology chief Mira Murati said.

And ChaptGPT-4o will be free for all users, meaning that more people around the world will be able to use the AI platform for various purposes in a way that brings more changes to workplaces, schools and homes.

A recent survey by Microsoft and LinkedIn also showed that AI is already being actively used. On Tuesday, Microsoft Korea said that 3 out of 4 workers across the world are using AI in their workplaces and the percentage for Korean workers was 73 percent, citing the company’s annual report that surveyed 31,000 people in 31 countries.

With a slew of new solutions popping up, FOMO, or a "fear of missing out," is gripping both governments and companies keen to jump on the global rush for generative AI and related innovative developments.

On Wednesday, a group of US senators called on Congress to approve $32 billion in funding for AI research so that it can better compete with China in the technology field. And the US government is taking various administrative steps to address the advantages and perils of AI.

Japan held the first meeting of its AI strategy council in May last year and introduced its AI guidelines for businesses last month in a move to foster responsible AI innovation through a framework for developers and companies.

In March, the European Union approved the Artificial Intelligence Act that ensures safety and compliance with fundamental rights, marking the first comprehensive AI law that includes strict rules on LLM (large language models) applications that power generative AI technology. The EU legislation is aimed at addressing growing fears about AI-based deepfakes and misinformation, as well as setting up safeguards for companies in the bloc facing tough competition from US players such as OpenAI, Microsoft and Google.

The US tech heavyweights are at the forefront of generative AI development as AI-based chatbots and agents are incorporated into key services in a wide range of sectors at a fast pace. These companies are spending massive amounts of money to build and train more advanced generative AI models, a make-or-break competition that follows ChatGPT’s phenomenal success with the 2022 launch of its ChatGPT, which now has around 100 million weekly active users.

Meanwhile, Korean companies find it hard to invest in AI technology aggressively, largely because the details of related AI rules and regulations are yet to be determined. As long as the country’s regulatory roadmap remains in a hazy state, companies cannot join the generative AI race for fear of belatedly finding themselves caught up in debilitating penalties and restrictions.

With the 21st National Assembly set to expire on May 29, lawmakers are still wrangling with each other, failing to work on the AI Basic Act designed to define AI-related concepts, ensure industrial safety and nurture the domestic AI industry. The bill has been left idling at the National Assembly for over a year. It is time for lawmakers to stop bipartisan quarrels and start working on the crucial bill.