Since 2022, generative AI has been on everyone’s lips. Regardless of your tech prowess, you’ll likely have heard of ChatGPT, Open AI, Midjourney… the list continues to grow. Established players are scrambling to keep up with the craze, acutely aware of the need to invest in order to stay both technologically and culturally relevant. Snapchat is reportedly developing an AI chatbot designed to emulate ChatGPT’s capabilities. At the same time, Bloomberg will be launching a generative AI model trained to tackle financial data. And not to miss out, Salesforce is working on workflow tools that use generative AI to improve automation.
Tech’s heart beats to the rhythm of non-stop self-improvement all consumed by the hunt for ‘the next big thing’. However, the quest is always challenged by the looming growth of fear over fanfare. Half of business leaders reckon AI could replace humans, according to new data released by YouGov (via CITY AM). Whilst tech scare stories often peter out, will generative AI be the one that sticks?
Depending on which news source you read, ChatGPT will improve; how we study, write, research, code, work, create and evolve in the workplace. There is more, of course, because the potential use cases are endless, but there are also grounds to sound the alarm.
We’ve been here before. People of a certain age will recall the fanfare to which Wikipedia arrived. That too was going to revolutionise how we learn and research. That too was going to change the world. And did it? I’m afraid not quite.
What happened is its evolution into a tool among numerous others – think Alexa and next-day delivery. This too will happen to ChatGPT. On its own, will it change how we operate? Almost certainly. Will it change the world? Almost certainly not. Like Wikipedia, we will grow to learn its limits.
Moving on to the next chapter
Perhaps the key question is, where and how far will it catapult society? Generative AI has already sparked transformative change in sectors such as healthcare (for early detection, image scanning and analysis and predictive care to name a few examples) and manufacturing (for instance, to increase production capabilities and cut emissions) but those applications are limited only to a select few, hence the massive disparity in reaction.
ChatGPT is simply the next chapter in an already AI-infused world. We can see its potential by looking at what’s happening in education. Students are using it for exams as shown by recent law tests it passed at the University of Minnesota and another exam at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, according to this report by CNN.
Concern that it will undermine the integrity of education is causing a rise in the development of tools to detect and prevent its usage. However, these are unlikely to deter the determined students and they also send out a wrong message fuelling the fire of scepticism around AI. Knowing that they’re here to stay, we should accept ChatGPT and other AI tools into education and encourage people on how to best engage with them. Essentially, to use every tool in the box to get the job done better and quicker because this is the world of work they will walk into.
A sidekick, not a nemesis
The same message applies to businesses – those who will come out on top will be the ones who embrace these types of innovation. ChatGPT’s ability to create job adverts, brand copy or legal letters does not undermine HR, marketing and legal teams. These teams are more vital than ever because of their years of experience, diverse backgrounds, soft human skills and unique personalities.
Early machine code developers, for example, didn’t disappear because we invented compilers. In fact, more and more people could access the power of computing as coding became progressively easier and easier with each generation; with generative AI such as GPT4 now generating code and creating websites from sketches it will just enable even more people to engage and create.
Focusing on collaboration
At some point, we may find that AI will be upstaged be a breakout innovation – but that day is still a long way off. This tipping point is still under moral and social scrutiny as explored by Professor Stuart Russell in his 2021 Reith Lectures.
Today, we’re playing with a new technology that is taking big steps forward in communication and generation. Using this tool and combining it with other tools alongside the scientific method and human intelligence is where the real excitement is. We are still teasing out its flaws and limitations, analysing combinations and applications that could deliver real tangible impact to the human quality of life. To achieve that lasting impression, a thorough understanding of the limitations of AI is fundamental and we must humbly recognise that we’re always in the middle of history, never the end.