Vishal Sharma believes AGI will be reached through continuous advancements and lead to an "age of abundance."

Deborah Yao, Editor

March 13, 2024

3 Min Read
From left: Axios' Ryan Heath and Amazon's Vishal Sharma

At a Glance

  • Vishal Sharma, Amazon's vice president of AGI, said AGI will be reached through continuous advances, not a moment in time.
  • He said that as the importance of chips lead to Moore's Law, a new principle could arise for generative AI.

The race to reach artificial general intelligence is getting intense among the tech giants, but its arrival will not happen as a “moment in time,” according to Amazon’s vice president of AGI.

“It’s very unlikely that there’s going to be a moment in time when you suddenly decide, ‘oh AGI wasn’t (here yesterday) but it’s here today,” said Vishal Sharma during a fireside chat at SXSW 2024 in Austin, Texas. “That’s probably not going to happen.”

Instead, he sees it as a journey of continuous advances. His comments echo Google DeepMind’s six levels of AGI, where models go up one level as they progressively exhibit more AGI characteristics.

Meanwhile, there are hurdles to overcome. For one, people still do not agree on a precise definition of AGI. “If you ask 10 experts about AGI, you will get 10 different explanations," he said.

Another is the ethical challenges models face. For Sharma, they fall in three buckets: Veracity – since the models can hallucinate or make things up – safety (intense red-teaming is needed), and controllability, in which inputting broadly similar prompts or queries can result in broadly similar outcomes.

A popular technique to mitigate hallucinations is Retrieval-Augmented Generation (RAG) in which the model is given, or provided access to, additional content or data from which to draw its answers. Sharma said RAG is still the best technique to fight hallucinations today.

Related:DeepMind Co-founder on AGI and the AI Race - SXSW 2024

However, he mentioned that there is another school of thought that believes “it’s just a matter of time until the models become capable enough where these truths will be woven into the model themselves.”

As for his views on open vs. closed models, Sharm said one of Amazon’s leadership principles is that success and scale bring broad responsibility and this applies to both types of models.

He emphasized the need to be flexible since generative AI remains fairly new and unforeseen opportunities and challenges could arise. Sharma said that when the internet began maturing, it brought new challenges that people did not think of before, such as cyber bullying.

“We have to be adaptable,” Sharma said.

He also thinks that just as the rise of semiconductors ushered in Moore’s Law and the network of networks led to Metcalfe’s Law, generative AI could lead to a new principle as well.

He sees a time when AI will be broadly embedded into daily life as a helpful assistant, while staying in the background.

Sharma said Alexa’s Hunches are already one sign of this future. With Hunches, Alexa learns your routine – say locking the back door at 9 p.m. every night − and if you fail to do that one night, it will send an alert.

Related:EU AI Act Would Scrutinize Many ‘General’ AI Models – SXSW 2024

He said Amazon’s Astro is an example of an embodied AI assistant. The $1,600 household robot is used for home monitoring. You can ask it to check on people or specific rooms in the house. It alerts you if it sees someone it does not recognize or hears certain sounds. Astro can also throw treats to your dog through an accessory that is sold separately.

To be sure, today’s models still have room for improvement whether in performance or economics. But Sharma believes advancements will lead to an “age of abundance” through the “fusion of use cases that will become possible.”

“You should bet on AI,” he said. “You should not bet against it.”

About the Author(s)

Deborah Yao


Deborah Yao runs the day-to-day operations of AI Business. She is a Stanford grad who has worked at Amazon, Wharton School and Associated Press.

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