No Hurt Feelings

Day 100 Week 15 Q2 Tuesday, April 9, 2024

There is a tremendous hidden benefit from artificial intelligence. If you are a creative outlier and have many ideas that are not mainstream, there is a pretty good chance that you will aggravate some people along the way. When you are trying your ideas out and iterating toward more palatable solutions, the unpalatable intermediary requests and interactions you make with others can be very annoying. Creative people are not necessarily known to be the most diplomatic of all humans.

When you interact with an AI, you can freely make suggestions and iterate forward without the fear of hurting anyone’s feelings. This is a significant advantage, as people are sensitive, and when you’re engrossed in the flow of your ideas, you may not always be aware of the impact you’re having on others. Let’s rewind a few decades to the invention of the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet was a fantastic what-if machine, and it still is. You could take a business, alter some variables, costs, pricing, and market share, how much time it would take to achieve various goals, and enter all of these to ask the question, what if? What if all of these things happen? What would the result and the impact on my business be? Could you imagine if you had to ask an accountant to work up all of these? Before the spreadsheet, you did, or more likely, you had to do it yourself because the average accountant would be so offended by the wild of changes you were requesting that they wouldn’t do it. Or they would do it but charge you more money than you had to do it.

One of the reasons a lot of people do not like science fiction is because it, too, is a what-if machine.  What is the organism we invented to eat the plastic garbage in the ocean that got loose and ate all the insulation off all of the wires in Manhattan and short-circuited out all of the circuits? What if we had an apocalypse? Science Fiction asks a lot of what-if questions. These are very useful to ask. They are also very annoying to a lot of people. There was even a movie about it called An Inconvenient Truth.

Just as you can ask Excel what-ifs without offending your accountant, you can also ask an AI about all sorts of things. You can ask ridiculous things, like the illustrations I have for my blog postings that I have had an AI create based on my prompts. The ability to iterate and create a message without offending anyone and with no hurt feelings is a pretty powerful tool. It’s not too bad for a fringe benefit. The next time you inadvertently annoy someone by asking what if, ask yourself, could I be asking an AI this to narrow the field a little bit down before I expose other humans to wild experimenting? I am certain that I have driven a lot of people crazy with questions. I have been asked about my statements, which were occasionally taken as requests or orders. I thought I was asking an innocent question, but since I was in charge and some people like to follow, I accidentally sent people off on directions that were completely unreasonable when all I really wanted them to do was just think about it a little, not change their direction and do something completely different than what they were already working on.

One of the responsibilities of leadership is to take care of your people. Offending them or annoying them is not a beneficial behavior. Give your staff a break and ask an AI instead. At least while you’re getting your bearings and becoming clearer about what you should really be asking, which is generally not the first thing that you’re asking, we all need to iterate our way forward. No one knows exactly what to do. We all make our mistakes and fall forward, or sometimes it’s called failing forward. Innovation is inherently risky because it requires a certain amount of failure. Perhaps we could be using AI to reduce the amount of failure we have or at least to contain it in an interaction that was not offensive because no humans were involved except for you. And it could be that the answers offend you. But since you’re the one who asked the question, you have to get over it. And just smile that you are not upsetting everybody around you. This may turn out to be one of the most tremendous benefits of artificial intelligence, to not unintentionally hurt people’s feelings.

AI is often represented as a way to add something positive to a situation, but removing negatives is usually far more noticeable and immediate. I used ot be a speaker designer, and the pursuit of excellent sound was less noticeable than removing distortion and other defects. We tend to notice what bothers us more than what delights us. This is why there are more people wringing their hands than smiling beatifically.

If an AI can potentially remove something very bothersome, this is a big deal. When you can reduce friction in difficult situations, it is quickly noticed.

No Hurt Feelings