I recently helped to stage a panel discussion on Generative AI (GAI) at the CincyDeliver conference, and was surprised by some of what I learned along the way. Our premise was that Generative AI WILL Transform your Work and the panel participants included
While GAI has been around for a few years - it broke on to the scene in a big way late last year with the public release of ChatGPT and it’s obvious that 2023 will be considered the birth-year of really transformative GAI tools. Given that it’s so new, we provided the following definition of GAI in the panel discussion:
Generative AI is a branch of artificial intelligence that focuses on creating new content or data autonomously, rather than being limited only to specific tasks or regurgitating existing content. It uses techniques like deep learning, neural networks, and large language models to understand patterns in training data, enabling it to generate new data that resembles the original. Applications include image and text generation, music composition, and data augmentation. While generative AI offers exciting possibilities, ethical considerations are crucial to address potential challenges like misuse and disinformation.
We also shared a very compelling short video that Rich created to demonstrate the power of GAI - where he literally created a simple version of the classic video game “Asteroids” by using GAI tools to write code and provide the visuals. It’s a great example of the amazing content that can be created with access to existing GAI tools and the right prompts. The following are key themes of the panel discussion and what I took away from the experience.
Most people are just getting started…and need help. We took a poll during the panel to ask what experience people had so far with Generative AI. Granted, this was a somewhat informal poll, but even among technology geeks, it seems like people are not yet using AI to try to solve real world problems. Most people are either doing nothing with AI at all (presumably because they think its a fad or maybe because their company prohibits them) or they are just playing with it informally. Only about 30% said that they had used a GAI tool to solve a real world problem in some way. We also allowed the audience to submit questions and most of them centered around how to get started and where to find help. The unanimous advice from the panel is to start with something simple TODAY! The key is to get started. Pick a real world problem and explore enough about the tools out there to get started trying to solve it using GAI. Focus on something small and non-critical and try out the tools. David McCcoy shared his experience doing some experiments with GAI in creating wireframes. There are training courses and consultants who are starting to focus on the topic – here's one from Rich Theil that helps teams get started.
AI WILL Transform how we work! Much like when the internet first appeared - people didn’t really know what to do with it, but many knew it had the power to transform how we all work. Our colleague Rich told an interesting anecdote about when the internet first appeared in the late 1990’s, many companies had to decide IF they would allow their employees access to the internet while at work. Can you imagine living without the internet now - either at work or at home? This is how I think it will be with GAI tools - our work will be transformed, but it’s very hard to predict in exactly what ways. What we do know from this Mckinsey article is:
We need to be careful with these tools. If your company has not communicated a clear policy with respect ot the use of GAI tools to it’s employees, you should do so immediately. At Ingage, we created an internal team to explore the topic and make some immediate recommendations. You can learn about the process of creating guidance to our associates in this article from our President, Brian Samson. While we are all optimistic about the benefits of GAI, given the proliferation of tools and the fact that GAI tools can also facilitate deep fakes, hacking, and other cyber threats, it’s critical to set boundaries for your associates in your technical environment to ensure data privacy and security.
There are real concerns about GAI replacing our jobs. I believe that some low level programming jobs will be eliminated due to GAI, but software engineers who build solutions will still need to understand the fundamental building blocks of coding and will use GAI to build those solutions in a fraction of the time. The panel and audience seemed to agree that many jobs will evolve from doing the hands on work to orchestrating GAI tools to build the solution. In these early days of GAI that means learning how to prompt the tools to get what you want. Prompt Engineering will be a critical development skill. We should all be learning these tools now, so that we are prepared to transform with the work in collaboration with GAI.
The future is certainly uncertain. In spite of the challenges discussed, there’s generally a ton of excitement and optimism about the future of GAI tools and how they might bring transformation. All the panelists agreed that there’s no way we can know what that might look like, but a good analogy is to think about how much the internet has changed our lives in the past 20 years. The best opportunities for transformation often come from industries where outdated, inefficient processes dominate how things get done. This might be true for entire industries like healthcare (why do I have to manually to fill out that freaking form every time?!?!), or for portions of your own internal processes. GAI tools will likely be developed to address the entire range of possibilities and will be as ubiquitous as apps on your internet powered mobile phone.
So perhaps you’re in a place where you could be the next Jeff Bezos of the GAI transformation, or you just need to understand how you can use GAI to make your own life a little easier at work or at play. The key right now is to educate yourself about GAI, because this one’s not going away. Get started today!