The Gist

  • AI hype and skepticism: The emergence of generative AI has brought about both excitement and fear, with some predicting transformative capabilities and others foreseeing potential negative impacts.
  • Learning from history: Much like previous disruptive technologies such as the automobile, telephone, or the internet, generative AI will inevitably bring about change.
  • Importance of responsible AI and vigilance: As AI continues to evolve and influence various aspects of our lives, it is crucial to maintain standards of quality and ethics in its application.

Something big is happening right now. The emergence of generative AI has arrived to our desktops, and depending on who you ask, it will either leapfrog humankind into a future of unbelievable and accelerating capabilities or end human life altogether.

Bard, ChatGPT, Bing AI Chat, ChatSonic ... What Comes Next?

Smart people are predicting miracles or mass destruction — you rarely hear of a middle ground — although some opinions seem to change in real time. Elon Musk, co-founder of OpenAI, joined others encouraging a pause in development of this technology. Soon after, he intimated he may create another AI Chatbot himself. Musk’s contradictory messaging may reveal some self interest, or he may be issuing a tacit challenge to those other spaceship-owning billionaires to see who can acquire the best Chatbot first.

We are in a skeptical time, for good reasons. Considering the unknowns expressed by some experts, there may be legitimate cause for concern, but historically, there has always been skepticism and fear of technical advances. I submit that skepticism is the very human trait that is our best protection. It is in trusting technology too much that we get into trouble.

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AI Hype: We Have Been Here Before

Many of the first horseless carriages were designed such that they could be pulled by a horse if the car quit running. This happened famously in 1896 in one of the first American auto races. An early adopter, Dr. Carlos Booth, lost a race in New York City when his motorized carriage broke down. With no small amount of humiliation, and several horses, his machine was pulled all the way back to his home in Youngstown, Ohio.

It took years for personal vehicles to become a trusted addition to daily life. Even the words “internal combustion engine,” probably spawned trepidation in the hearts of those hearing the phrase for the first time.

Examples go back as far as you are willing to look:

  • People feared that the first telephones presented a risk of electrocution inside their homes.
  • Elevators were distrusted because riders could not see the cables to understand how they worked; they also seemed elitist.
  • The printing press was feared because it could be used to misrepresent religious texts.
  • When the internet became mobile, pundits feared cell phones would foster social isolation and perhaps create a new kind of addiction (okay, that really happened).

Early in my lifetime, I remember working in an office where newly faxed letters were immediately folded and stuffed into a stamped envelope. This was followed by a phone call to the recipient to look for the fax and expect the real copy to arrive a few days later.

Skepticism Is Healthy With Artificial Intelligence

My point is that skepticism is often healthy. When the horseless carriage was mistrusted, few people missed work due to car trouble.

Frequent elevator cable inspections prevent catastrophe. Limiting your screen time supports good mental health and promotes better sleep. Warning lights on dashboards should not be ignored, and relying on multiple sources for information keeps us honest.

Learning Opportunities

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Lessons for Digital Experience

The extrapolations to digital experience are apparent. We have already seen AI-generated tagging of digital content. The better CMS and DXP offerings have been moving toward AI-assisted personalization and content recommendations for several years now. Depending on your role, you are excited, apprehensive, in fear for your job, or all three.

Keep 2 Things in Mind: Responsible AI and the Past

First, those of us who steep ourselves in technology news should recognize that the latest and coolest always has a downside or unintended consequences. We should cool our jets.

Curators and consumers of content need to be vigilant that what we curate and consume meets quality standards. Humans need to make and maintain those standards, even — and especially — as we rely on AI-generated content to augment and accelerate our own efforts. It will be our job to help AI make us better, not the other way around. If you can tell it was created by a machine, it is because lazy humans were too willing to let machines do their jobs.

Second, we need to recognize we have been here before. AI has the potential to revolutionize virtually every aspect of our lives, but this was the case with every disruptive technology ever introduced. The printing press ultimately toppled governments. The automobile changed the places we could live and work. The internet ended industries and enabled new ones.

Skeptics Unite on Life as We Know It

It may well be true that life as we know it will change forever, but that’s just what life as we know it does. How we work, shop, relate and create will be influenced by generative AI and whatever stems from it. Creativity itself will change.

We can’t and shouldn’t stop it, but our human skepticism should drive the terms of whatever version of better, faster, more affordable we will accept. We should trust in the future of AI because we trust in the future of skeptics.

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