Why This AI Moment May Be the Real Deal

The savvy observer has been burned many times before. He knows what it’s like to believe the AI magic show, only to have the curtain pulled back and the flimsy strings yanking the puppet revealed.

Call it AI’s man-behind-the-curtain effect: What appear at first to be dazzling new achievements in artificial intelligence routinely lose their luster and seem limited, one-off, jerry-rigged, with nothing all that impressive happening behind the scenes aside from sweat and tears, certainly nothing that deserves the name “intelligence” even by loose analogy.

So what’s different now? What follows in this essay is an attempt to contrast some of the most notable features of the new transformer paradigm (the T in ChatGPT) with what came before. It is an attempt to articulate why the new AIs that have garnered so much attention over the past year seem to defy some of the major lines of skepticism that have rightly applied to past eras — why this AI moment might, just might, be the real deal.

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