This is not the usual drumbeat about the infinite many ways AI is going to change life as we know it. Instead, I am asking for a tiny pause for reflection. Indeed I am biased, whenever there is a relentless push for the One Thing, Kool Aid coming to mind, I am always wondering if attention is also been given to the flip side of the shiny coin. That’s the aim of this post.
March this year, as the noise was reaching fever point, or so I thought at the time, I’d come across an article whose title I’d swiftly paraphrase, that was my previous post somebody is wrong on the Internet.
Give or take 4 quarters, picking Wall Street yardstick there, some companies are likely to post stellar earning reports, many might simply be surfing the hype rather than measurable improved performance. Others however, those companies that didn’t seek to sort out their fundamental challenges, might be struggling to justify their lacklustre performance figures. Had a focus challenge before? Well brace for the tech onslaught, try to escape the mention of AI, or ChatGPT, just try. Some pundits claim that the AI boom is going to be bigger than the Internet, unfortunately I never come across any specific details about exactly how that’s going to happen. Executive surveys is the tool of choice for making such predictions, and are those biased, built on ever moving impressions and posturing? Those who’ve been around long enough would remember the dotCom Boom, Webvan anyone? I love partaking in the great experiment, I see many opportunities as well, it’s what I do. I’m not claiming that nothing would change, I’m just saying that I am looking for details, specific details.
Crawl before walking before running? Anyone heard about Garbage In Garbage Out? Oh, you’re just going to leapfrog, how? If everybody’s got access to AI, that AI is getting democratised, that is surely an equalising factor if not a chance to leapfrog. Sounds great, from where I hail I instinctively love the feeling – though I had a similar enthusiasm for crypto when it was just emerging, I kind of still am waiting to see that happen having repurposed my own energy early on.
Equally dumb or more effective?
On a level playing field, assuming that’s what AI would contribute to, many are likely to be uncomfortable and would seek to game the system. Those copy/pasting AI writing, AI workflows, AI planning, AI whatnot, are all going to look and behave the same and buyers will see right through that. Some will ask, why pay top euros for something that’s just been AI generated? Another risk factor is that some people might stop thinking, too quickly, expecting AI to provide answers, answers they will likely not even question. Some of that will be passive-aggressive, some likely plain dumb, take your pick. If AI helps you accelerate, and your business is good at shedding value or creating garbage and you’ve gone on full monty with AI, what do you think is a likely outcome? Are we going to realise that it is all about people after all, it’s about humans, that we can’t escape the human condition no matter how hard we try? We’ll see what happens.
As I set out to write this one, despite all the hoopla I couldn’t resist thinking that it’s been done before. We’ve clearly been there before, giving the way to Are you Conditioned? Behaviorism’s Greatest Experiments Explained.
I have been closely monitoring AI for over a decade now. I used to find it relatively easy to read the papers that come out, now I would be lucky to even keep up with AI summaries of the papers that come out daily. Incidentally, I’m not sure all of it is good quality. Not evaluating AI, not experimenting with the tools that come out, would be plain foolish. However, companies should make sure that they are actually set up to support experimentation, that they really have a grasp of their fundamentals rather than succumbing to tech fashion. This is where it could hurt, particularly for organisations that may have fine-tuned the art of dumbing down their employees. Slogans won’t cut it. We are what we do, the company is what the company actually does, plain and simple. AI will not solve that, instead, AI would likely exacerbate a tenuous situation. Proceed with care. Do care.