Apple Intelligence an approach to AI privacy?

This weeks WWDC gave details of upgrades to the various operating systems. Great to see the calculator make it to the iPad at last, the Math notes feature looks super cool, being able to write equations using the Apple Pencil and have them solved real time is great, very nice that you change variable on the fly and even create graphs (I think Math Notes will also be available on the Mac?).

Perhaps more interestingly they also gave details of the Apple approach to AI/ML (I’m not sure why they had to coin Apple Intelligence). Whilst it is clear that the neural processing unit on the new M-series chips is involved in a number of actions it has not explicitly highlighted that much. That changed with WWDC24, AI is now front and centre.

What was interesting was how Apple are allowing users to interact with AI models, for many simple tasks like email or text responses, editing photos, image generation etc. it is all done locally with no interaction with any cloud based services. I suspect for many users this will accommodate most of their needs. I’m not clear how this local Large Language model will be generated from your personal data, and if the user can exclude things, but it does seem preferable to handing everything over to an external party.

Apple also gave a demonstration of Apple intelligence intent, taking a query about whether the user would have time to get from a meeting to their daughter’s birthday party. This query requires information from multiple sources, emails, PDF, maps, local traffic news etc. to be integrated into a response, it looks truly impressive.

If the request is not suitable for the local model Apple Intelligence can draw on larger server-based models, running on Apple silicon, to handle more complex requests. Details of Apple Cloud compute were limited, but they did suggest the code would be open to scrutiny and that no personal data or the requests would be stored.

Apple also announced the expected collaboration with OpenAI. Apple says that before any data is sent to ChatGPT, the OS asks for the user’s permission, and the entire ChatGPT experience is optional. According to Apple, requests are not stored by OpenAI, and users’ IP addresses are hidden. In a throwaway comment at the end Apple said they would add “support for other AI models in the future”, will this be Apple approved models or will users be able to link to their choice?

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