Sam Altman is right!- we can’t compete with OpenAI and here’s why…

Note : I am not very happy while writing this post. This is more a rant than a considered view.

Recently, OpenAI founder Sam Altman said that it’s pretty hopeless for Indian companies to try and compete with them in building a ChatGPT-like tool. On Twitter, Tech Mahindra CEO CP Gurnani responded by tweeting “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED” and saying that Indian entrepreneurs will try to build an AI tool.

Hope is a good thing, it keeps one going. However, there is substantial truth in what Altman says.

Missed Bus

Altman and his team at OpenAI started in 2015 and have a huge lead of 7 years as of now. IBM developed the Watson system even earlier and has been using it. Google has its own system called Bard. China has been making progress in this over the years and according to a recent report, have already released 79 Large Language Models(LLMs, ChatGPT works on these) in last 3 years!

So, starting now even if we get billions of dollars in funding, they always will be ahead unless we do something revolutionary. Knowing the propensity of Indian companies to behave like “Lalas”, who don’t like to take any risks, I don’t think the funding will ever be adequate. Government cannot and shouldn’t fund it. It has already failed in many things it started.- a prominent example being BOSS, which nobody knows about.

LLM and Indian languages

The biggest challenge for LLMs in India was to do so in Indian languages. Consider this : when we machine translate, we rely on google translate. How could we have developed an LLM? It is afterall an ecosystem.

However, this was also an opportunity we never capitalised on. And guess who did? ChatGPT does work in Indian languages, although not as well as it does on English. There still remains an opportunity, but I am sceptical if we will ever capitalise on it. We will likely focus on reinventing the wheel and do another English LLM model.

The likely scenario

So what is going to happen? Apart from LLMs, OpenAI and its peers also have AI models that can create images. ChatGPT itself can write pretty competent code. Soon, it will be videos and then in a few years we shall have an Artificial General Intelligence(AGI) capable of doing most of computing and communication jobs. Think like the Kelex robot of Superman in Marvel Movies, or Jarvis if you prefer!

All this will require massive computing power and quantum processing will become the norm in a few decades. India is likely to remain dependent on other countries/corporations in this area for any forseeable future. That is unless something extraordinary happens.

A policy suggestion would be to massively invest in chip manufacturing and advanced quantum computing, if possible through govt subsidies. We need to corner a share of that pie. Else, future is dystopian and digital colonisation would be the only conclusion.

Sounds dark? Consider this. We don’t have a homegrown search engine, shopping or even a proper homegrown social media or communication app! China, Russia, US and even Indonesia has that.

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