We Need More Useful Intelligence, Not Just Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence
Not every individual, team or department will benefit. The trick is to figure out where AI, or better yet UI, is useful—and where it’s just a distraction.

Artificial or not, what’s most important is that intelligence be useful. Which is why there’s a better name for what businesses need right now: Useful Intelligence or what I call UI, or a tool that filters out bad or even dangerous information and delivers fact-based, well-researched data genuinely useful to humankind, and in turn companies across the world.

After all, the advancement of useful information is the kind of evolution we need most. There’s no point in demonizing AI, or handwringing over what it might take from us in terms of jobs or independence. It’s here. It offers real potential. So, let’s focus instead on how to make it as useful as possible — and on what it can do for each of our various enterprises.

The hot new AI that’s got everyone talking is, of course, ChatGPT, the chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched last November. Microsoft rolled out its attention-getting version in February, although as of this writing, Bing’s AI is still only available in preview mode.

At their core, these are computer programs with expanded search engine capabilities that can also converse with human users, or at least mimic conversation. They can generate code and create all sorts of content including articles and images. And in case you’re wondering, ChatGPT stands for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer (did they have to use the word transformer?).

The computer program’s ability to effect transformational change across all facets of life — including business, government, academia, healthcare, military, tech, manufacturing, finance and beyond — depends on how well it has been trained and what source information it’s leveraging/scraping. And already there is evidence that it gets things wrong — very wrong.

Early enthusiasts (and detractors) seem focused solely on output, and whether chatbots will eliminate entire writing careers, rather than how to ensure the chatbot learns and grows from the best inputs that will lead to the most useful outcomes. A not-so-simple case of what goes in is what comes out. This is why I’m hoping we’ll do a better job of generating UI to make AI all it can be.

To start, AI must endeavor to be more objective than subjective. There’s already too much media bias and misinformation on the internet. A chatbot shouldn’t give opinions in place of information, and recommendations should be based on data-driven UI, not popular conjecture or worse. The aim of the chatbot should be to provide users a way to sift out the endless noise around them by delivering well-researched information that has been fully vetted and can then be leveraged to our collective benefit.

Easier said than done, to be sure, since sentient beings are inputting the data. But this is something for program developers to strive for, nonetheless. The sentences, statistics, deep dives and detailed projections that these programs can create need to be reliable and trustworthy to be useful in the world beyond the computer screen. This is why I’d love to see these programs provide us with citations or at least bibliographies if requested. It might be fun to imagine the chatbots have feelings, but we want and need them to have actual facts.

Admittedly, all of this can sound scary, especially to businesspeople who weren’t raised with technology. Things are moving so fast it can be overwhelming even for some experts. But AI is the future, and the future is now. I say be optimistic. How can someone who starts or runs a business be otherwise?

Don’t think of ChatGPT and other forms of AI as replacements; they are enhancements — or, at least, can and should be. That’s one big reason every business needs to spend time considering how ChatGPT, and any number of alternatives, can make life easier for employees, better for customers, and also enhance the company’s bottom line.

It’s still early days, but there’s no better time to start thinking about the areas in which AI could be useful:

● Building the brand

● Communicating effectively

● Creating marketing plans

● Expanding customer base

● Researching opportunities

● Training and development

● Analyzing metrics

● Pivoting quickly

● Providing data-based support for new initiatives

The trick is to figure out where AI, or better yet UI, is useful and where it’s not. Some individuals, teams, departments and companies will benefit from it; others won’t. Let the programs help determine whether to go deeper or cast aside an idea. Use it as a sounding board to see if something is proven or an opinion, or to consider another perspective altogether. Don’t let it become a distraction.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore AI or dismiss its potential usefulness before it’s been thoroughly considered in conjunction with your corporate needs. I’m a big proponent of quarterly meetings. AI should be up for discussion at each one. Ask yourselves: What’s our overall stance on AI? How do we want to allocate resources for it? Which departments would benefit most from this latest technology? Who will lead its vetting process?

Then use the AI to your advantage. Regardless of how it seems, we control the technology, not the other way around. IMO, we are transitioning from the Age of Information (Work 7.0) to the Age of Understanding (Work 8.0) and it’s my belief that this new age will be built upon useful information and useful intelligence.

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