John Templeton, the famous investor and creator of the Templeton Growth Fund, is credited with the popular saying, “The four most dangerous words in theread more
How I Learned to Love the Bot
April 25, 2023
For those new to the relatively recent and rather profound paradigm shift in internet search, the next generation of chatbots can realistically simulate human conversation by mining huge samples of texts and images available on the internet. And these computer programs—including Open AI’s Chat GPT, Microsoft’s Bing AI, and Google’s Bard, among others—can convincingly answer questions in a completely conversational manner. While still in its early days, this technology is rapidly evolving and will eventually transform content creation, customer service, and many other aspects of our personal and professional lives.
Unlike early voice-activated chatbots that many people are familiar and comfortable with—like Siri or Alexa—these newer machine-learning chatbots, also known as artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots, are far more sophisticated. They allow users to ask advanced, open-ended questions and in return they provide very conventional and thorough responses. Additionally, this generation of technology learns from conversations and improves upon its responses over time by utilizing learning algorithms that quickly process large volumes of information, identify patterns, and structure comparative arguments. They can even create artistic outcomes in very personalized ways.
As these systems become more sophisticated and better able to understand natural language, they will increasingly automate tasks like customer service and many kinds of common support. They will also improve our search outcomes, help interpret that output, and help organizations make more informed decisions. For example, in education, AI technologies are improving personalized learning experiences for students and helping to create rough drafts for writing assignments. For better or worse, these non-human entities can now produce essays on almost any topic at a moment’s notice, forever changing the landscape of term paper assignments—at least at this point, in middle and high school levels.
On that note, it is important to acknowledge that the use of AI technology is not without its challenges and risks. One key concern is that it raises many ethical and social issues, from the obvious temptation of students to shortcut their schoolwork to the risk that these chatbots could be used to spread disinformation or manipulate public opinion. Other issues include the potential for bias and discrimination in their output as AI systems are only as good as the data that they can mine. And finally, there is the potential for job displacement from content creation to customer service, and surely much more in due course.
But it is a fascinating innovation, and richly rewarding, too. After obsessing over this new technology for the past few months, I can certainly attest that its songwriting and poetry skills on any number of random topics are already superior to my own—and it is highly capable of writing coherent first drafts. For instance, this article’s origins started from my relatively simple AI chat prompt, “How will Chat GPT impact the world in 550 words?” which immediately cut my own task of writing this article by a third.
There is no doubt that artificial intelligence is the next technological revolution, and while some aspects of this innovation are unnerving, there is no going back. But AI can’t do everything. It isn’t sentient and it isn’t going to be particularly valuable for high human-touch interactions (at least not anytime soon). But figuring out how AI can be harnessed and productively used by talented people to improve their outcomes—as well as elevate the joy in their work—will help us all deliver deeper and fuller experiences in the years ahead.
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