The Public Imagination




  • it feels like either a mistake or misdirection. Because public AI providers like OpenAI aren’t destined to become the next iPhone, but the next—and maybe, much bigger—AWS. (View Highlight)
  • Amazon saw an opportunity, and an incomprehensibly large pile of money. Amazon—and later Google, Microsoft, and a few others, who are collectively now known as cloud providers—began offering ways for companies to lease servers. The cloud providers would make the upfront investment to buy a bunch of computers, and would do the work to make sure they were always up and running. Companies could then rent them, by the minute, for a fee. (View Highlight)
  • To make the offer more appealing, cloud providers started selling utility services as well. In addition to renting hardware, people could also lease a file storage system, a database, a tool that runs simple programs on demand, and hundreds of other similar products. All of these services were designed to be a kind of middleware that sits somewhere between bare metal and the sort of software that most people use every day. (View Highlight)
  • The utilities are building materials, and cloud providers are the internet’s hardware stores—they sell pre-cut lumber and boxes of nails and sandpaper of dozens of different grains, but don’t offer birdhouses or lawn furniture or two-story houses. (View Highlight)
  • there are skeptics and holdouts—some companies don’t like the idea of running sensitive applications on another company’s hardware; for very big companies, the fees that cloud providers charge can end up costing more than buying their own servers. But these exceptions are uncommon. For many companies, their AWS (or GCP or Azure) bill is an unavoidable tax for doing business on the internet, a universal line item on our income statements, the toll to drive on the information superhighway. (View Highlight)
  • new type of cloud—a generative one, a commercial Skynet, a public imagination3—will undergird nearly every piece of technology we use. (View Highlight)
  • better and for worse, OpenAI—and specifically, its APIs—will finally take AI mainstream. Rather than training their own models, companies can now use generalized large language models offered by OpenAI. (View Highlight)
  • as is the case for cloud providers, this critical infrastructure will be invisible to most people. Customers won’t know or care which products use GPT, just as they don’t care which ones use DynamoDB or Spanner or Azure Functions. They’ll just come to expect that the products they buy to do the things at AI can do. (View Highlight)
  • The race, then, is to be a dominant AI provider, since—again, as is true for the cloud—dominance is self-reinforcing. The bigger a provider becomes, the deeper its moat gets through an entrenched ecosystem, better models, and, likely, lower prices. And because training and running LLMs is very expensive (like building data centers is expensive), once a few AI providers separate themselves from the rest of the market, nobody else can catch up. (View Highlight)
  • Some companies will resist using public AI providers because of concerns about security or privacy. Other companies will get big enough that it’ll be cheaper for them to develop their own models than it is to rent one from OpenAI or Google. And there will probably be “multi-cloud” approaches, where companies let their customers choose which LLM they prefer. (View Highlight)
  • The more lucrative opportunity for OpenAI, it seems, is to sit behind the apps that are fighting for our attention. In that scenario, whoever wins, so does OpenAI.9 Moreover, if AI can replace service jobs, public AI providers could be much bigger businesses than the cloud providers. For OpenAI to be truly ubiquitous and to truly “benefit all of humanity,” ignoring how many people use it directly may be the most important thing they can do. The real war isn’t for users, but for the public imagination. (View Highlight)