The value of expertise is under threat from generative AI and instant access to information. Skilled professionals face a dilemma of using or boycotting the GPT technology, a decision which Christopher Dodds explores.
Should you share your expert knowledge with an AI, or wait for someone else to do it for you? What happens when your skills, knowledge and expertise become a subscription-based commodity? How do we manage AI hesitancy and fear among teams? And the use of tools without authorisation or governance
These questions agitate me more than I’d like to admit, and I’ve been pondering them since OpenAI burst onto the market by adding a simple chat interface to most of the world’s knowledge.
With OpenAI’s latest innovation in customisable GPTs, the landscape of knowledge-based expertise is undergoing a seismic shift. The community-driven approach to creating a GPT agent is reminiscent of Apple and Google’s app store tactics, tapping into the collective genius of millions to forge a novel digital marketplace.
And building a GPT has become as easy as ranting about the ROI of programmatic marketing, crisis comms or breeding Birman cats. OpenAI has devised an interface where your natural language is the only tool needed to build a virtualised version of your knowledge – supplemented by millions of expert reference points.
Icon recently trialled it by building the ‘AuStyle Editor‘ – a GPT trained in the Australian Style Manual, along with web writing best practices, SEO and accessible copywriting. Although it’s still a work in progress, the tool significantly streamlines copywriting, summarisation and editing tasks for Australian Government content creators.
So, what’s the impact on the industry and scribes at large? Whether we’re thrilled or not, chunks of our services are being neatly packaged and marketed through budget-friendly subscriptions. As knowledge workers, we’re at a crossroads: either jump on the bandwagon early or risk being left in the dust of change.
I’ve experienced my fair share of disruption, having been in the business of selling expert services for 30 years. Analogue to digital, the desktop publishing revolution, the internet, the web, social media, virtual reality, cryptocurrency and now AI all harboured great periods of change. Knowing where to make your mark during transformative times is key if you want to remain relevant and useful. Some brief thoughts on how are below.
Embrace or resist? The knowledge worker’s dilemma with the GPT
With the arrival of customisable GPTs, sharing expertise via an AI is not just a possibility but a burgeoning reality. It’s also rife with practical, ethical and existential considerations.
The case for embracing AI
Diving into the AI pool gives you the upper hand. You can shape and refine these virtual agents with your expertise, setting the standard for others to follow and becoming a guide for teams and clients.
By contributing your knowledge to a GPT, you’re not just talking to a room but broadcasting to the world. Your expertise can touch lives far and wide, transcending geographical and temporal boundaries. If you’re lucky and your GPT becomes popular, it may gain entrance to OpenAI’s soon-to-launch app store, and you get some coin for your efforts. Think Spotify for knowledge workers.
My tip? Make informed decisions. As AI becomes more integrated into our professional lives, staying abreast of these changes ensures you’re not rendered obsolete. You don’t have to compromise your personal knowledge by sharing it with the hive mind, but you do need to understand and consciously navigate the scale of change upon us.
The case for caution
AI may democratise knowledge, but can it match the depth and nuance of a seasoned expert? Not yet, but many engineers and theorists believe an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – or superintelligence – is not far off.
There’s also a risk of diluting quality in a sea of quantity as AIs consume AI-generated content and become an echo chamber of diminishing creativity. AIs scrape the web for content and, when most content becomes AI-generated, the quality and originality of ideas will decrease.
With greater opportunity comes greater responsibility. Feeding your knowledge into an AI raises questions about data privacy, misuse and the ethical implications of AI-generated advice. When human expertise and cross-checking wanes, who acts as the truth gatekeepers?
AIs might be ‘smart’, but they lack the human element – empathy, intuition and the personal touch that often defines the expert-client relationship. Once the hype cycle peaks, we’ll potentially see a harking back to independent thinking and endeavour. Younger generations are already making the shift by vibing vinyl, film cameras and mismatched vintage 90s clothes. There’s a palpable yearning for a pre-digital age.
Strategies for navigating the AI landscape
You need to understand its capabilities, limitations and how specific tools are reshaping your field.
Partner with AI developers, or tap people in your business or network who are curious. Your expertise could guide an AI towards more accurate and useful applications. Or you could launch a product that supplements your current service.
Use AI as a tool to supplement repetitive tasks. Let it handle the mundane, freeing you for more complex, creative effort. Stay informed and be ready to adapt quickly. Keeping your finger on the pulse of technological advancements makes you useful and relevant if your industry is impacted.
Looking ahead: the future of expertise in an AI-driven world
Integrating AI in our professional lives is no longer a question of if, but when. The choice we face is not just about adopting new technology, but about redefining our roles in an AI-driven economy.
Ultimately, the decision to embrace or resist AI in sharing your expertise hinges on a balance between maintaining the integrity of your knowledge and adapting to the changing tides of technology.
Whether you dive into the AI wave or watch from the shore, one thing is certain: the concept of expertise is changing, and staying informed is your best bet for navigating these uncharted waters.
Alternatively, because I do like a good counterargument, if it’s all too hard or you disagree with the ethics of how AI has come about, there’s nothing wrong with reskilling to a job that’s a long way from being disrupted. Personal care and social services, construction, education and farming will remain human endeavours for some time.
I’ve built a career on being curious and excited by technology, but I’m also wary of the neo-libertarian capitalist Silicon Valley spin. Without proper checks, balances and safe use policies, AI has the potential to disrupt faster than economies and workplaces can adapt – driving more profits to fewer companies and adding to the wealth divide.
One thing is certain – the commoditisation of AI-based knowledge work will only accelerate, so stay curious and vigilant. For the moment, artificial intelligence doesn’t replace human intelligence; it’s an instrument that enhances human creativity and resourcefulness.
Christopher Dodds is co-founder and managing director of growth and innovation at Icon Agency. Images attributed to Microsoft Bing Image Creator and Christopher Dodds.