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The AI investing boom

Key takeaways

  • Tech stocks have been reinvigorated by ChatGPT’s launch.
  • Companies are racing to build out artificial intelligence (AI) services in cloud computing, web search, chatbots, and tools for developers.
  • Concerns have risen that AI will lead to job losses, along with misinformation, security, and privacy risks.

A world may be coming soon where you see a movie or TV show written entirely by artificial intelligence. Maybe even a world where you or a loved one are given a life-saving drug that was discovered with the help of machine learning. And it’s due to some revolutionary technology that has many investors very excited.

Here’s what you need to know about the most recent developments for AI (ChatGPT in particular), the chip stocks underlying this unfolding technology, and the hopes (plus some palpable fears) that have been downloaded into the consciousness of investors and the general public.

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ChatGPT and the rise of the machines

Tech was in the doldrums for most of last year. But with the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022, AI seemingly leapt from the realm of science fiction to reality, and the tech sector (chip makers especially) has leapt with it thus far this year. The PHLX Semiconductor Index (SOX), which tracks chip stocks, has surged 50% this year through July 17, compared with a 35% loss in 2022, according to data from FactSet.

Chart shows semiconductor index compared to the S&P 500.
Source: FactSet, as of July 12, 2023. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

ChatGPT, which uses algorithms to generate text and conversational language directed by user prompts, reached 100 million users in January 2023.*

While Silicon Valley firms have been investing in and experimenting with AI for years, many investors see ChatGPT as an inflection point. It has not only opened a new chapter in the evolution of the technology, but also helped reinvigorate the narrative for the tech sector in a relatively brief period.

Tech’s resurgence

Many of tech’s biggest names—including Microsoft (), Alphabet (), and Meta ()—have cited AI as a central catalyst for future growth. Key areas include AI-enhanced web search, cloud infrastructure, chatbots, and various tools for developers and engineers to write code.

This AI-fueled optimism, following a punishing year for tech valuations in 2022, has helped propel several large-cap tech stocks to record highs so far this year. The long-term durability of the tech rally, however, has sparked debate among some Wall Street analysts over whether there could potentially be a repeat of the dot-com era’s boom-and-bust cycle in the early 2000s.

“Competition is often painted as a zero-sum game, but there should be room for multiple players to benefit if they take advantage of AI trends,” says Ali Khan, a technology analyst at Fidelity Investments who manages the Fidelity® Select Software and IT Services Portfolio (). “AI has the potential to impact the entire technology ecosystem, including software, hardware, and semiconductor firms.”

Chip sector ahoy!

With technology companies embarking on what they believe to be an AI-driven gold rush, the semiconductor sector has had the spotlight on it supplying the picks and shovels enabling big tech’s ambitions.

Shares of several chip makers in particular have advanced thus far in 2023 amid growing demand for the processors that power the computational scale needed to build the innovative applications and products for AI—like ChatGPT.

Nvidia (), which has emerged as the global leader in supplying graphics processing units (otherwise known as GPUs), reflects the intense demand for the chips behind AI technology. These chips, which are also used to render graphics and imagery for video games, have become essential to perform the complex calculations needed for running and training AI models.

Nvidia’s share of the GPU market rose to 84% in the first quarter of 2023, up from 75% in the same period a year earlier, according to analyst firm JPR. Two of Nvidia’s competitors, Advanced Micro Devices () and Intel (), commanded 12% and 4%, respectively.

What is generative AI—the tech behind ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is a chatbot based on generative artificial intelligence that uses algorithms to analyze and interpret massive quantities of data to create content, including text, images, audio, video, and computer code.

Use cases for generative AI are increasing as the technology improves. Proponents of this technology believe it has the potential to transform how many jobs are performed. It can parse large data sets and identify patterns and trends, translate languages, produce artwork and branding images for graphic designers, write resumes, create animation, and much more.

Image shows potential use cases for AI.

For example, generative AI is expected to be a major game changer in marketing and media. Research firm Gartner projects 30% of marketing messages will be AI generated by 2025, up from 25% in 2022. Gartner also projects an AI-generated “major blockbuster film” will be released by 2030.

Beyond tech

The potential for generative AI goes well beyond content creation. “AI may be used for more complex tasks, including aiding in drug discoveries and asset management,” says Khan. “I see potential in many verticals, including retail, financial services, telecommunications, and health care.”

AI not only has the potential to reshape Silicon Valley, but also upend almost every facet of the economy. Khan expects AI to usher in broad efficiencies across the economy. That view is shared by consulting firm McKinsey, which estimates labor productivity stemming from AI to add as much as $4.4 trillion to the global economy. Banking, high tech, and life sciences are among the fields which could see the biggest impact as a percentage of revenue, according to the firm’s projections.

“A lot of the narrative about what AI can do tends to center around job displacement,” says Khan. “By automating mundane tasks, AI, in many cases, can increase human productivity. In roughly the next 5 years, I think AI will likely focus on automating the repetitive tasks required in many lines of work.”

While it is still early days, companies outside of the tech sector appear to be looking for ways to integrate AI. Mentions of AI on earnings conference calls have picked up this year, including comments from companies in consumer discretionary, industrial, health care, and financial sectors. Bloomberg reported a 77% increase in mentions of AI in 2022 fourth-quarter calls.

Areas where companies have already begun leveraging AI tools include automated customer support, inventory management, job recruitment, and enhanced-recommendation algorithms on e-commerce platforms.

Are machines taking over?

As might be expected, a number of tech observers have been sounding the alarm. A primary concern many have of this emerging technology is that it could displace jobs. But potential risks of AI go deeper. Critics have cited a myriad of concerns ranging from misinformation to privacy concerns and biased outcomes.

Some warnings over the severity of certain risks have gone even further. In March of this year, a group of more than 1,000 tech leaders signed an open letter calling for a pause on the development of the most advanced AI systems, bringing attention to what they described as “profound risks to society and humanity.”

Outlook for AI

Speculative hype (and fear of the unknown) often accompanies new developments in technology and innovation. But forecasts can often be wrong. Self-driving vehicles were going to immediately transform cities and highways, blockchains were going to revolutionize the financial system, and virtual reality would redefine how humans interact. Those things may still happen, but they haven’t just yet. Time will tell for AI.

Regardless, the AI revolution may continue to galvanize Silicon Valley, from startups to tech giants. As new AI products and services are released, or interlaced with existing projects, the technology has the potential to support growth and new opportunities going forward.

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*Source: Reuters

Views expressed are as of the date indicated, based on the information available at that time, and may change based on market or other conditions. Unless otherwise noted, the opinions provided are those of the speaker or author and not necessarily those of Fidelity Investments or its affiliates. Fidelity does not assume any duty to update any of the information.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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