Be an AI hero, but just for a day

Like all new shiny new things, generative AI offers mere mortals a brief chance to impress friends, colleagues, line managers and customers, with Da Vinci levels of creativity and intelligence.

Bask in the limelight while it lasts because very soon, everyone will be able to do exactly the same thing. It’s both the strength and weakness of generative AI.

One can’t help but feel impressed with the demonstration on LinkedIn of how Microsoft 365 CoPilot can create action points from Teams meetings and organise busy Outlook InBoxes. All of this is powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which is being tasked to draw insights based on trawling internal enterprise data.

While there has been plenty of talk about Google’s Bard and the “Celebrity Deathmatch” that is forming between Google Microsoft/OpenAI, Adobe has also entered the market with its own take on generative AI. Its approach, through Adobe Firefly, is to make it easier for people to create meaningful images, which are able to convey an idea or concept. It draws on the Adobe Stock Library along with copyright-free images.

David Truog, a principal analyst at Forrester, believes Firefly will empower organisations to create and communicate better. In a blog describing the product, he wrote: “Firefly lights a path forward for helping generative AI models not get stale by infusing them with fresh material rooted in the inspired intelligence of human creators, thanks to incentives for them to contribute to model training.”

Truog’s observation is among the key themes coming out of the industry’s efforts with generative AI. Microsoft called its product, CoPilot, rather than “autopilot” for a reason. Its CEO, Satya Nadella, emphasises the fact that CoPilot augments and works alongside humans.

Former Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates goes further. He believes the rise of AI will free people up to do things that software never will – teaching, caring for patients, and supporting the elderly.

As this technology evolves, society will need to recalibrate the role people play alongside machines. Do we see ourselves as the Luddites, who, at the start of the 19th century, tried to stop the progress of knitting machines? Surely, over the last 200 years, society has learned to live and adapt to technologically-driven changes to working practices?

By focusing on augmenting humans, the tech firms are deferring the decision over the extent of AI’s role in the workplace, to business leaders and workers. At this moment in time, with the technology at a nascent stage of development, it’s probably the right decision. But at some point, we will all face some hard truths, and, in the meantime, we can’t all be Leonardo Da Vinics.

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