I uploaded a photo of me (left) and asked AI to generate variations of it.
Technology only moves foward, not backwards
If you keep hearing about Artificial Intelligence in the news and are curious about what all the hype is about, I wrote this post for you. Let's break down the what and why of AI.
By now, most of us have heard or seen headlines about Artificial Intelligence, or AI. It is almost impossible to ignore if you spend even just a few minutes each week consuming the news. You may be wondering, why now? Why, after years of embedded AI in the wild (like email autocomplete or AlphaGo), are we now finally talking about AI? It all started earlier this year when OpenAI, an AI research lab, released chatGPT.
In a nutshell, chatGPT allows you to type in just about anything — from a search query to story prompt to even just friendly banter — and receive a surprisingly-good response in paragraph form. Here are examples of me asking it to write me a love letter in the style of early 1800s:
And here is me asking it about mortgages and home equity:
Pretty cool, right?
I'll be the first to admit that chat AI has its shortcomings, and there are definitely bugs in the responses, but don’t kid yourself — AI tech is here to stay and is improving at an exponential rate. It’s getting better by the day (literally), and AI will impact your job (and life!) in several ways (from searching online with perplexity.ai to gains upward of 50% on writing & blogging).
For those that have never seen this technology, it can get overwhelming once you truly realize the full capabilities of AI. You can signup here if you want to play around with it — but be forewarned, it's still in its early stages and not super accurate for many topics.
Many are calling it a Google killer, especially after Microsoft invested billions into chatGPT so they could integrate it into their Bing search results (Google quickly responded by launching their own AI, dubbed "Google Bard"). Many others (mostly tech venture capitalists) call AI the "greatest platform shift since the iPhone and the internet itself!" (shameless plugin: Maven Ventures is actively investing in this space — if you want an intro, reply to this email). AI has received so much hype that even the FTC has reminded the public to keep your AI claims in check.
Even though AI has been used internally by FAANG for years, chatGPT has been a lightbulb moment for the industry and consumers alike. Since its launch just a few weeks ago, dozens of companies have cropped up to show off their various features and products (see more below). Let's look under the hood to understand why and how AI is such a breakthrough technology.
Classic Algorithms vs Artificial Intelligence
In classical computer programming, apps are merely a series of small algorithms duck-taped and patched together to create a larger, functional program. With AI, it’s a self-taught, self-learning piece of software that gets exponentially better the more data you feed it.
Until now, computer programming logic has moved linearly through a series of algorithms (image a bunch of if/else statements patched together), but with AI, the program is much more dynamic by leapfrogging certain conditions or logic to solve the problem.
Imagine a human that memorizes 100% of what s/he consumes and continues to build on their knowledge — as the corpus of the dataset grows, the more accurate, factual, and creative the output becomes.
It's like comparing an apple 🍎 to an apple tree 🌳 — with the former, you get what you see (an apple), whereas with the latter, you get a living plant that continually produces fruit that soon blossoms its own fruit. The process continues until the entire field is covered with apple trees.
So does this mean AI will grow until it completely covers (and overtakes?) human lives? Many people believe this is a credible threat that must be addressed early before it’s too late.
Ethics & Regulation
One of those people is Elon Musk & his Paypal mafia friends (Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, etc). In 2015, the team founded openAI with a mandate to build a more friendly AI. Musk observed:
"What is the best thing we can do to ensure the future is good? We could sit on the sidelines or we can encourage regulatory oversight, or we could participate with the right structure with people who care deeply about developing AI in a way that is safe and is beneficial to humanity."
As someone who is just learning about the power of AI and realizing its early capabilities, I wholeheartedly and unequivocally support oversight and regulation of this powerful technology. I’m not exactly sure how we will do it or the best way to manage it, but there’s a reason why Google withheld AI from the world for so long — it’s too dangerous in the wrong hands!
So whether you are liberal or conservative, rich or poor, street smart or book smart… you should support AI oversight and we should all spend at least a little bit of our life playing with and learning about AI.
I’ve now played with about 20+ AI apps (from chat to search to generative images), and I’m convinced the venture capitalists are right — we are at the start of a platform shift that will change the trajectory of innovation and humanity forever.
My first recommendation for those still reading is to watch the AlphaGo documentary — the now famous 37th move of the match is when the AI opponent showed its true prowess by playing a move that had a 1 in 10,000 chance of being played. The human opponent was so startled by the move that he literally exited the building to calm himself with a cigarette.
Next, of course, is to signup for chatGPT (links above) or just use perplexity.ai to run some test queries. If you're still intrigued, here are some of the tools I've played with and can recommend:
- Generative search. Enhances fact-finding and elevated search UX. You've seen ChatGPT, but you definitely need to try perplexity.ai for general searching and Poe for quora-powered AI.
- Generative graphics. From video editing to deepfakes, or even as simple as fashion (example, see also womens & mens), audiovisual work will become much more powerful for a fraction of the cost. For image creation, I recommend starting with Stable Diffusion then try DALL-E. If you’re still hyped, hack around with Midjourney.
- Assistant / Copilot. Any AI that empowers the workforce (mostly B2B). This seems like the most immediate and obvious use case, especially since we already see gains — Github Copilot for engineering, Lex for blogging, copy.ai for ad copy & other digital marketing. I just started using Notion AI and now looking for a tool for my Zoom meetings.
Is AI really coming for my job?
So in sum, do I really believe AI is coming for your job? No, not yet. Do I think AI is coming for your kid’s job? Yes, it definitely is.