Rise in AI ‘unavoidable’

The Custom Bubble founder and graphic designer Conrad Broad has been using artificial...
The Custom Bubble founder and graphic designer Conrad Broad has been using artificial intelligence in his work to boost productivity and output, although regulations are needed, he says. PHOTO: BEN TOMSETT
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming the defining technological advancement of the decade, and even the country’s southern-most city has been caught up in the hype.

The sometimes controversial technology is being used by businesses, public services and private users for a wide range of uses.

New Zealand Police use an AI tool, SearchX, to find connections between people, locations, criminal charges and other factors that are likely to increase the risk of harm to officers, while Foodstuffs has been known to use facial recognition software on instore cameras through several of its stores.

At a recent Invercargill City Council hearing on topics that included the city’s CCTV upgrade, several submitters questioned whether AI could be integrated into the system to surveil people — although councillors dismissed this.

Despite the issues of surveillance, some users have managed to lean into the benevolent side of AI in order to boost their own work productivity.

The Custom Bubble founder and freelance graphic designer Conrad Broad said he had been using AI platforms to generate images for some projects for about a year, and had seen how quickly it had evolved — especially in recent months.

He said he first heard of Chat GPT, an AI ‘bot’ that uses natural language processing to create humanlike conversational dialogue, in December last year, and "it just blew my mind".

When he began using the technology to create images, he said he was now able to tackle three to four times the amount of work.

"Because I’m getting so used to using AI, I can have conversations with it, it can create code for me. If I can visualise what I want to create I can look at a website that I’m working on and get it to give me suggestions ... Even as I’m working through a design, I can get the AI to kind of look at it and tell me what I need to improve on," Mr Broad said.

"At the start of the year, I was telling people this is going to move really quickly — and I exaggerate things a lot — but it’s definitely moved as quick as what I said. It’s crazy."

Despite the many benefits to his own business, he also had concerns about what could happen without proper regulations in place around AI.

"I can recreate myself in videos, that you wouldn’t even tell the difference that they’re AI made ... You see all these [photos] on Facebook that are getting 20 million views and they’re not real photography. If people can be duped now and this technology is moving so quickly, that’s totally concerning.

"It’s a large language model that knows all the things that we’ve learned and combined some of those things to come up with new things. It’s doing that in the creative field, it’s doing it in every industry.

"It will definitely have a lot of good applications, but then some bad applications ... There’s a lot of unknowns."

As far as other Southland-based businesses using the technology, he said he was not aware of anyone else but expected many in the region to be catching up soon.

"It’s going to be unavoidable, it’s going to smack people in the face.

"Already you can see what it’s doing and other places — in Australia, America, and other parts of New Zealand."