Executive summary

Will generative artificial intelligence usher in a golden age of productivity or destroy millions of livelihoods across the global economy? Will it set people onto new paths of personal fulfillment or lead them into cul-de-sacs of loneliness and isolation? Will it lift humanity to new heights or sow the seeds of our collective destruction?

Depending on whom you ask, the answer to all those questions is yes.

In the 14 months since the launch of ChatGPT, it hasn’t become clear exactly how generative AI will transform the world, only that it will — with both positive and negative effects on individuals, families, socioeconomic groups, businesses, industries, and societies as it revolutionizes workplaces and reorders personal lives.

Many breakthrough technologies come with pitfalls. Fire allowed humans to gather at night but also burned villages. The automobile revolutionized mobility but brought traffic fatalities. The internet connected people instantly but gave new tools to criminals.

A key difference between generative AI and earlier innovations is that its very creators are warning of the potential downsides. The dual strands of promise and peril are woven throughout AI companies themselves; look no further than the battle for control of OpenAI for an example of the deep ambivalence that generative AI is producing.

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