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Q&A with Carl Miller

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Carl Miller, Author & Research Director

How could you describe your career path in few words?


My career has been quite a winding one! I started off working in a think tank here in London called Demos, and became convinced that the rise of social media platforms was going to completely transform research. Everything went from there really; I co-founded the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media in 2012 to research social media, and then CASM Technology in 2013 to build the underlying technology to do so. 


In 2018, I became more interested in combining all that data and analytics with human stories and investigative journalism. I travelled around the world for a year investigating how power is changing in the digital age, and at the end wrote a book, The Death of the Gods. After that, I began to present programmes for the BBC’s flagship technology shop Click and other outlets. Now, I have two podcast series about to come out. One, out by the time you read this, returns to the idea of power, and across six episodes asks how it’s changing due to AI. 



What are the highlights of the key digital innovation trends for 2022? Can you give us some major examples?

Well, back in 2022, probably the most visible and important trend that people discussed was the rise in disinformation and online manipulation. Ever since the 2016 US Presidential election, there has been a huge amount of attention in how online manipulation - fake accounts, fictitious groups, search engine manipulation, disinformation - can interfere in all kinds of important events. One specific example that I and my colleagues looked at was how online manipulation was targeting discussion around climate change and climate action. You can read more about that here.


Then, it was late November 2022 OpenAI released ChatGPT. By December it had over one million users. By January, they’d reached over 100 million. It became the, fastest growing consumer application we’ve ever seen. That wasn’t the beginning of AI, but it was undoubtedly one of the most important single moments in its history, and even really the history of technology and society. Even for the technical experts, the progress made by this new generation of models seemed stunning.  And for the rest of us, the revolution was probably as much about access. Suddenly anyone could use these extremely powerful models, and many, many millions of us began to use them. 



Based on your experiences, what are the impactful trends in digital innovation that are becoming more important in the context of 2023?


Oh - there can be only one answer to this. The emergence of ‘large language models’ and other forms of frontier AI is continuing. Their development is blisteringly fast, and probably accelerating, and their impacts are likely to be unbelievably cross-cutting. From the perspective of economics, you can see integrations for these models going into almost any business, not just allowing automation to occur, but also entirely new practices, projects and products. I think AI is going to increasingly become central to geopolitical competition as well, as countries manoeuvre to build their own models, onshore data and attract talent. We’ll also continue to see debates raging around the world about how to control and govern AI, and different regimes will emerge in the EU, the US and China to do that. Digital innovation isn’t just for the good guys though, and we’ll see bad actors - scammers, disinformation purveyors, extremists - also work out how to use generative AI to (try to) suborn elections, damage reputations, attack political institutions and pursue activists and journalists. 

In your opinion, how can they create high value for organizations?


This is a strange and important moment for businesses. There is a strong sense that AI will change so much, but exactly what impact it'll have on the workforce is unclear. It might automate high-salary jobs and professions in ways we're not used to seeing from previous technological revolutions. They might allow entirely new and very disruptive business models to emerge too, which could allow incumbents to be challenged. This isn’t necessarily going to be a moment where small, agile companies win out though; generally AI development benefits from huge scales of data and compute power at the moment, and it might be large and rich companies that find ways of getting competitive advantage. 


The best advice to businesses, as far as I can see, right now, is to be ready to move and change very quickly. Know that the progressions in AI, at least in the minds of some of the people who’re building it, is happening at an exponential rate. Exponentials produce effects that are very difficult to predict and might seem very weird from our current vantage point. The safest assumption though, is that the revolution in that field is going to be something that many companies will be able to avoid or ignore. 

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