AI Rapport

DD Day 044 Week 07 Q1 Wednesday, February 14, 2024

It’s time for all of us to develop a more comfortable relationship with artificial intelligence. For today at least, I’m calling this AI rapport. Unlike AI the word rapport can at least be defined. The dictionary in my Macintosh has to say about it.

Rapport is a noun:”

a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.

It is tempting to say AI has nothing to do with my life and I’m going to ignore it. Why do I need to bother to be in a harmonious relationship with it? 

First of all, we have all been using artificial intelligence for a very long time. I studied artificial intelligence in college in the mid-70s and by the time I got my master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1980, I was being recruited by companies working on speech recognition. You have probably heard of Dragon Systems, probably the most famous speech recognition company and program. The two founders of Dragon Systems, James and Janet Baker, were working for a company called Verbex, which was owned by Exxon, to try to figure out how to make speech recognition work. They interviewed me in 1980 because I had studied both AI and speech recognition and concluded that they were, in fact, the same subject.

If any of you have been using speech recognition, you are using AI. And all of our GPS systems are another form of AI helping us get places. Even a Google search for a topic on the Internet is using AI. It has now become a buzzword that shows up everywhere and permits almost every company to claim that they’re using AI, which is easily explainable because they have already been using AI for decades.

What is different now, is artificial intelligence has become more generalized. Unlike the specialized functions mentioned above, you can now have a conversation with AI, and that is a big deal.

It is such a big deal that I find myself thinking back to when I was 17 years old in 1970, having to change my thinking that computers were a waste of my time to understand that they were so powerful that I could no longer ignore them. It became clear more than 50 years ago that if one wanted to get a degree in any kind of science or engineering, they were going to have to learn how to use a computer.  There was simply no choice any longer.

Well, here, 50 years later, I come to the same conclusion about artificial intelligence. It is simply too powerful to ignore, except this time, this is not just true for people who want to get degrees in science and engineering. It is now true for anybody who wants to communicate by writing, which is pretty much every professional in every field. Writers who are leveraged by artificial intelligence for help in grammar, spelling, and other kinds of editing processes are going to outperform those who are not. And by the way, don’t you think that grammar and spell-checking are also artificial intelligence? 

Seriously, this generalized artificial intelligence has evolved so much since last March when I first began to explore the use of Chat GPT that I cannot recall any other technology that has advanced this rapidly nor been adopted this widely in my lifetime. A year ago, when I asked Chat GPT if I could trust what it had to say, it told me, “No”. Chat GPT told me that it could not tell the difference between a romance novel and a doctoral dissertation. It just read everything that was out there, but it had no way of knowing what was true or false.

This Is still the case.  Artificial intelligence can still not be trusted to know the difference between wrong and right. It has no way to tell. This does not provide a good enough excuse to ignore it. When we use our GPS systems in our cars, they frequently give us directions that make no sense, like when you’re driving along a coastal road to make a sharp left turn into the ocean. This happened to all of you. Does this give us an excuse not to use GPS? No, of course, we use GPS, but we know that we still have to use judgment to determine whether or not to listen to it.

The same is true whenever we hire a specialist, including doctors and lawyers. We still have to make the determination of whether or not the advice we are receiving makes sense or not. AI is in the same category.  It can be very useful, but it can also hallucinate information, which is nonsensical. Have you ever asked a person a question and received a nonsensical answer? Of course, you have.

When I attempt to use speech recognition, as I am doing right now, in writing this column, a lot of nonsensical things are transcribed, and I have to get rid of them. When I attempt to use the GPS to get to some place in a region that I’m familiar with, I have to frequently overrule it. When I do a Google search, much of what comes back is a waste of my time.  But it still makes sense to use speech recognition, GPS systems, and Google searches.  

In the same manner. It also makes sense to use generalized artificial intelligence. But you still have to take responsibility by using your intelligence for the final word on things.

Do not be afraid of AI, and do not ignore it either. It is here and here to stay, and those who use it will outperform those who do not.