AI That Can See, Hear, Talk, and Solve the Climate Crisis

ChatGPT is back from summer break

Hey friends,

I’ve been hitting the road nonstop the last few weeks. I made stops in Louisville, New York and Baltimore last week alone to speak about the future of AI.

I wanted to share some of the insights I gained speaking with amazing climate entrepreneurs and education leaders on how AI is going to shape our schools and our planet.

But first, some AI news.

Part One: ChatGPT Roars Back from Summer Vacation

Anyone using ChatGPT regularly is about to get a major boost: ChatGPT now has the ability to see, hear, and talk. It’s a new chapter of AI and human collaboration. You can send an image to ChatGPT, and it will tell you what you want to know about that image. What part should I fix? Which tool should I use? What is going on in this picture? What are these people doing? How can I improve this photo?

Example of ChatGPT’s image recognition technology in action, courtesy of The New York Times.

ChatGPT can now also “speak”. Think Siri, but actually useful. You can speak to ChatGPT, and it will respond back with its own voice. This is something we’ve needed ever since Siri and Alexa first came out over a decade ago — an AI that is truly conversational and can respond like a human. It makes me think of the movie Her, where Scarlett Johansson plays the AI voice to Joaquin Phoenix’s character.

We are going to see some amazing use cases in the coming weeks as AI enthusiasts push the new ChatGPT to its limits. And this is just the beginning — recent reports suggest that Open AI may build a physical AI device with legendary Apple designer Jony Ive. Not much is known yet about the device (including what it would look like or what form it would take), but if there is anyone who could design an Open AI-powered AI device for the masses, it’s Jony Ive.

In our Coworking with AI course (an intro course on leveraging AI for productivity), my co-founder Matt Schlicht and I emphasize the need to turn AI into a habit. Use ChatGPT (or your favorite AI companion) every single day. Make it like brushing your teeth or using a calculator. Knowing how to prompt AI only matters if you actually remember to prompt it in the first place.

These AI tools will only get more powerful in the coming months and years. And soon, your AI might become your real-world companion. Get into the habit now.

Part Two: Climate Requires Communication

Last week, in a room full of entrepreneurial minds, I honed in on the role AI will play in the climate fight. At the Climatic VC and Top Tier Impact’s "Climate Tech x Impact" event during New York's Climate Week, I laid out three domains where AI is most likely to flip the script:

  • Analyzing large data sets to determine climate trends

  • Predicting future patterns to promote conservation efforts

  • Shaping communication around the climate crisis.

While most climate leaders believe AI can and will play a huge role in saving our planet, most of them still don’t know what to do with it. Prior to the release of ChatGPT, BCG surveyed climate and private-sector leaders and found that 78% of climate leaders reported insufficient access to AI expertise, 77% lament a lack of AI solutions to solve immediate climate issues, and only 43% have a vision for how to use AI to fight climate change.

Even now, most leaders still have little idea of how AI can be applied to solve complex world problems like climate, healthcare, and education. Most organizations are still trying to understand what they can do with AI, much less implementing it at scale.

My biggest message during my speech at the AI x Climate Summit: communicate (loudly) how and why you’re using AI to save the planet! It’s not enough to build AI to solve the climate crisis — the world needs to hear about the problems facing our world, the AI solutions being built to combat them, and the entrepreneurs taking on these difficult challenges.

For example, the winner of the event — and a $100,000 prize — was OCN.AI, which uses machine learning to measure and analyze hundreds of millions of data points about the health of the ocean. This will help scientists, businesses and governments to make more informed decisions around laws, risks, hazards, dangers and solutions related to the global marine environment.

I felt a deep sense of purpose speaking to these entrepreneurs. I learned about their passion for solving really complex climate problems and how they were using AI to tackle these challenges. I plan to share more of their stories in future newsletters.

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Part Three: The AI-ducation Makeover

Climate wasn’t the only topic I spoke about last week — two days later in Baltimore, I delivered a deep dive on the role of AI in education — perhaps the industry that is being most transformed by AI.

As I noted in my newsletter The A.I. Generation, students are turning to ChatGPT as their go-to solution for their questions and their homework, developing new habits that will transform them into AI-native workers as they graduate. But it’s not the only change coming. Some of the points I shared in my speech:

  • Students will be as fluent with AI as we are with calculators

  • The essay is already getting de-emphasized

  • Teachers can now create content and presentations quickly, saving them tons of time

  • Students have access to a 24/7 tutor who will never judge them

  • Students will rely more on AI for their knowledge gaps

  • AI will be used to personalize learning

  • The top teachers will leverage the flaws of AI as ways to enhance their teaching

  • More personalized learning experiences will become the norm — schools will use AI to create personalized education and tutoring tailored to each student’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • AI will open up greater accessibility to those with writing disabilities

  • AI will create greater education accessibility to those who can't reach or afford traditional education, especially in the developing world

It’s clear AI will be an enormous part of the lives of Gen Alpha and Gen Z. If you want to see where the world is going, go look at what’s happening in our schools.

Part Four: Untangling the AI Hype

On This Week In Tech, fellow tech commentators Leo Laporte, Doc Rock, Harry McCracken and I dug deep into AI and its hype cycles. Where in the AI hype cycle are we? Is it more like the Internet or Clubhouse? We debated this topic for the entire first half-hour of the show.

One thing we discussed was the role ChatGPT is playing in education and how ChatGPT lost web traffic in the summer, but has suddenly regained its lost traffic in August and September. I have been irritated by a small parade of news articles talking about the demise of ChatGPT when its web traffic dropped by ~10% in June and July. People were ready to declare it dead. Then August and September came around, and ChatGPT's traffic shot right back up.

ChatGPT’s web traffic the last 6 months. Notice the dip and then the recovery.

Why? Students came back from summer break. Students use ChatGPT all the time to help them solve math problems and help them write essays. When you combine that with people coming back from their vacations, it’s no wonder ChatGPT took a summer dip.

I think this trend shows that ChatGPT and AI are sticky — especially for students. The naysayers are wrong.

I understand the skepticism around AI. It gets things wrong (hallucinations). It doesn’t write as well as a human can. And it hasn’t replaced millions of jobs overnight (phew). But I think most people forget how much AI has transformed our lives, especially in 2023. Students are brainstorming with AI daily. Marketers are writing first drafts in record time. Programmers are using AI to write more and more of their code. And this is just the impact of generative AI — a tiny subset of AI overall. It doesn’t even touch on the AI that guides TikTok’s AI-powered video recommendation engine, the self-driving cars appearing on more roads, and the machine learning being built to save the planet.

I will continue to argue that AI, even while hyped up some, is a fundamental shift in human technology, one that will eventually be treated like the Internet or the smartphone — a normal part of everyday life.

~ Ben

P.S. I’ve started co-hosting some AI events, including GenAI Funders & Founders, an exclusive gathering of top AI funders and founders. (Thank you Amelia Lin for partnering with me on such an amazing event series and building an amazing community of AI founders!)

If you’re interested in getting involved in one of my future AI events, please fill out this form.