- AI has a "sweet spot." This is Greg Brockman's favorite function. Do CX leaders agree?
- Will CX leaders be out of a job? OpenAI founders detail what jobs they believe will be affected by the onset of AI.
- CX and the blank page problem. Sam Altman shares "the most gratifying thing" about AI.
OpenAI, the artificial intelligence research laboratory behind ChatGPT, has been at the forefront of developing technologies with the potential to revolutionize and enhance customer experiences. As CX continues to be a top priority for businesses, who better for CX leaders to look to for valuable insights than those leading major innovations in the industry?
In a series of recent interviews, OpenAI co-founders Greg Brockman and Sam Altman offered insights into the future of AI. Brockman shared his thoughts on the impact of generative AI during an interview at the SXSW 2023 conference, while Altman was recently interviewed on the Greymatter Podcast.
After analyzing their comments, we've compiled some nuggets on how AI can empower CX leaders to excel in their role.
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According to Brockman, AI can improve efficiency by streamlining processes, like automating routine tasks and handling simple customer inquiries, leaving human workers free to focus on more complex issues.
“It's kind of like, if you hire six assistants who are all, like you know, they're not perfect they need to be trained up a little bit, they don't quite always know exactly what you want but they're so eager, they never sleep, they're there to help you, they're willing to do the drudge work — and you get to be the director,” Brockman said. “I think that is going to be what writing will look like. I think that's what coding will look like. I think that's what business communication will look like.”
Altman referred to the process as “amplifying” human abilities.
"There is a huge cost premium on work that has to be split across two people. There’s the communication overhead. There’s the miscommunication. There’s everything else," Altman said. “And if you can make one person twice as productive, you don’t do as much as two people could do. Maybe you do as much as three and a half or four people could do — and for many kinds of tasks. And I think one of the things that we are seeing with this GPT-4 application is that.”
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CX Leaders Can Get Creative with Generative AI
Providing the best customer experience often means getting creative — but creativity is often fickle, and can fizzle under pressure.
“One of the things that has been most gratifying to see is the success people have had using this as a creative tool to get past that blank page problem, to get unstuck on something and to generate a bunch of new ideas,” Altman said. “Clearly it is not a replacement for creative work in any way, but as a new arrow in the quiver. I think people have had surprising success in many different ways and it has been very fun to watch the breadth of human creativity in finding out what to do with this.”
Generative AI’s sweet spot, said Brockman, is all about unblocking you, providing you with ideas, and giving you an assistant that’s willing to do “whatever you want, 24-7.”
“There are a bunch of boring use cases of GPT-4 that I really love — translation, summarization, information access. I’ve come to rely on it for many categories,” Altman said. “But I think the deepest thing that I have found so far with it is the ability to learn new things better than Wikipedia, which was my current leading way of learning something new, fast.”
Although many people agree that generative AI can help overcome writer's block and boost creativity, Altman acknowledged that there is still room for improvement in terms of ensuring reliability and building trust.
“One of the areas that we most need to figure out is how to get these models to be super reliable while not losing the creativity that people like, or giving settings for when you want one or the other,” Altman said. “We don’t have the answer here yet. We have a bunch of ideas and we’re able to make week-over-week improvement in the problem. But telling you when we’re going to be able to really get to a system that is accurate to what you as the user want ... I think we don’t have an answer. We’re making progress. We need some new ideas and it’ll get better.”
AI and Future Jobs: Generative AI Excels at Knowledge Work
Brockman understands that people fear robots could take over their jobs, and most of the jobs people think of as threatened are blue-collar or manual labor tasks — but that's not the reality.
As opposed to physical labor, knowledge work is often associated with cognitive skills such as critical thinking, creativity and communication. The term typically refers to tasks that most CX leaders are familiar with, including research, analysis, writing, decision-making and problem-solving — and it’s the work generative AI excels at, according to both Brockman and Altman.
“I think that the knowledge work is maybe the area that I kind of see as most important for us to really focus on,” Brockman said. “The funny thing is the way I think everyone used to think about this certainty, that it's very clear the AI is coming for the jobs, (it’s) just a question of what order, and clearly ... you know ones that are like menial or ... require physical work or something like that.”
But Brockman said knowledge work is the area where AI shines.
“I think that that for me, it is just, like, so interesting to see that people just use it as this cognitive aide to think more clearly and to communicate with others. I think that the real story here in my mind is amplification of what humans can do and I think that will be true on knowledge work,” Brockman said. “I think it's just going to be every aspect of life is going to be sort of amplified by this technology, and I'm sure there are some aspects where people or companies that will say I don't want that and that's okay like, I think it's really going to be a tool just like the cell phone in your pocket that is going to be available when it makes sense.”
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Balancing Innovation and Trust: CX Leaders Must Weigh the Risks
What is truth? Is the moon made of blue cheese? Probably not, said Altman — but then again, he’s never been there. While assuring the legitimacy and accuracy of generative AI is important to both OpenAI founders, Altman believes “if you let someone dictate the truth, I think you do something dangerous.”
As for fake news, he said there are a lot of easy examples, like the earth is not flat, the Holocaust did happen — and Altman assures they’re willing to make editorial calls on those two examples — but added that “there is a lot of other stuff where I think all of the trickiness comes in.”
“We are now experimenting with more steer-ability of the models where a user can say a lot more about how they want the model to behave in different ways — and so, if you want a high degree of careful calibration, the model can do that. And if you want something else, the model can do that too,” Altman said. “If you want the model in a very creative mode where it tells you a story about astronauts going to the moon and finding that it was made of blue cheese, there could be good reasons for that. That could be a fun sci-fi story.”
With CX leaders and marketers may be concerned over receiving incorrect information from ChatGPT, Altman believes there is a creative use for AI that’s capable of stretching the truth.
“I think people are finding more and more, it doesn’t quite work. Things they think they want a model to do, or not do, or never do, doesn’t always apply and it’s uncomfortable,” Altman said. “But giving the user a lot more control is something we think is important. And if you want that story about the astronaut going to the moon and it was made out of blue cheese, in some context, that’s totally fine. But it’s telling you something that is clearly not a fact in some other sense.”
Concerns over AI’s ability to maintain accuracy and truthfulness in its responses reached a fever pitch when journalist Kevin Roose of the New York Times reported on a session with ChatGPT in which the chatbot advised Roose to leave his wife — and expressed the desire to be human.
“There was this overhang in terms of this gap between people's expectations, what they were prepared for, and what was actually possible, and I think that's actually where a lot of the danger lies,” Brockman said. “We can kind of joke about or laugh about this article because it wasn't very convincing, you know, just like a chatbot saying leave your wife. Sydney was pretty spicy, very spicy, but it did not actually have an impact.”
But Brockman said the OpenAI team is “all very aligned in terms of trying to make this technology more trustworthy and usable.”
“We do a lot of red teaming internally ... we hire experts in different domains, we hire just lots of people to try to break the models ... when we actually released it, we knew like we'd kind of cleared a bar,” Brockman said.
Prior to its release, Brockman said the team felt they’d reached a point in development where it would be hard to get ChatGPT to go “off the rails,” but they knew the tech wasn’t perfect — and they knew users would uncover those imperfections; in fact OpenAI was counting on it. Releasing the tech so users could help isolate issues was a critical step.
“We've been feeding all that back in. We've been learning from what we see in practice and so I think that this, sort of, loop of there being failures, I think that's important," Brockman said. "Because if not, it means you are kind of holding it too long, because you're being too conservative and then when you do release it, now, you actually are taking on much more risk and much more danger.”
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While Moore's Law says we can expect the speed and capability computers to increase every two years, Brockman said he is now seeing a doubling in technical capacities every 3.5 months.
“The thing that's so interesting is normally, if you have a technology in search of a problem, adoption is hard. It's a new technology and everyone has to change their business — they don't know where it fits in,” Brockman said. “For AI for language in particular, every business is already a language business, every flow is language flow, and so if you can add a little bit of value, then everyone wants it, and I think that is the fundamental thing that really has driven the adoption — the excitement is that it just fits into what everyone already wants to do.”
Altman believes technology is a fundamental ingredient in making the world better, but it can't do it alone — you need society and the participation of people.
“I don’t view this as AI is just going to come along and wave a magic wand and fix everything. It’s like AI is this new meta-tool that humanity has to enable us along with all of our people, institutions, whatever, to go to greater and greater heights," he said.
Musing over the time the first smartphones and app stores launched, companies began saying, "I’m a mobile company." But today, Altman thinks “it would be ridiculous to say you’re a mobile company, because every company has a mobile part of its strategy."
“We’re going through a moment right now where everyone is talking about AI, and AI is the platform of the future,” Altman said. “My hope is that 10 years from now, intelligence is expected in every product and service and it’s so ubiquitous, we forget it’s a platform. It’s just part of everything we do.”
And while it’s a little too early to declare victory, Altman believes workers are already reaping numerous benefits when AI is incorporated in business.
“It certainly seems like people stay in the flow state much more and stay in the parts of the job they enjoy much more,” Altman said. “AI is good at doing the repetitive stuff that most of us just find a little bit monotonous.”