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What was once a far-future sci-fi trope has become a modern-day reality; AI is now an everyday tool that can be used by anyone to do, well, pretty much anything. Generative AI – A brilliant trap?

What was once a far-future sci-fi trope has become a modern-day reality; AI is now an everyday tool that can be used by anyone to do, well, pretty much anything. From AI generated imagery, written prose, voice acting and even video, the foundations of AI capabilities that have been established today are but a stepping stone to how culturally transformational these tools will eventually become.

In the next few years, the capabilities of AI tools will evolve so rapidly that they will soon be indistinguishable from original human thought and so, perhaps we as a species need to take pause and set the boundaries before it’s too late.

But is the rapid adoption of AI by the masses actually somewhat dangerous? Whilst I’m not talking about the far-flung, yet totally plausible eventualities of Cyberdyne and Skynet as seen in the Terminator movies, blind adoption and reliance on machine learning and generative artificial intelligence could be more treacherous than we initially realise.

In the next few years, the capabilities of AI tools will evolve so rapidly that they will soon be indistinguishable from original human thought and so, perhaps we as a species need to take pause and set the boundaries before it’s too late.

Now before you stop reading and assume I’m an anti-technology naysayer, I will elaborate and say that a large part of my day-to-day role can and has been improved using generative AI tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT. It has helped me with everything from simple idea generation through to improving my own copy and – of course – generated responses to questions I simply didn’t know the answer to.

Amazing right?

This use of AI frees up time for me to focus on other elements of my work by speeding up the time it takes to produce high-quality written prose that meets my every need.

What was once an afternoon spent researching and drafting content is now a simple, almost transactional conversation with an AI that helps hundreds of thousands of early adopters do the same thing every minute of every day. Ironically though, it’s through the use of AI that I’ve made a few observations about how inhibiting it might actually be.

Take what I said above as an example.

If I needed to understand, write or present information about a subject somewhat outside of my areas of expertise, I would normally spend an afternoon or a few days conducting research, reading articles and white papers, watching TED Talks or other educational videos and of course, conversing with industry peers that may be more knowledgeable - or even experts - in those areas.

Now, whilst I can still do all of those things, it’s much easier (and quicker) just to have a conversation with ChatGPT, a tool that can make me seem like an expert in minutes. In doing so though, I think that AI removes critical parts of the learning journey and leads to a lower rate of knowledge retention and comprehension – in other words, we don’t learn anything!

Conducting your own research can broaden your mind to differing opinions, help you better understand context and even provoke your own individual thoughts and ideas about a subject you previously knew nothing about. ChatGPT shortcuts all of that and gives you everything you need to know to get by and with that, you can get through that next presentation, client meeting or – dare I suggest it – university paper.

Does AI then inhibit the growth and development of our own personal intelligence? Even worse, does it make us lazier than we’ve ever been?

There are two sides to every coin; used properly, it frees up more time to do other learning or work tasks but, on the flipside, it allows you to slow the pace and take more downtime, both of which are huge benefits - or drawbacks, depending on your perspective.

Then there’s the even more pressing threat to creatives across every medium.

If AI can generate an image that’s perfectly suited to my exact needs, then why would I need to use a stock photo, hire a photographer or go out and take my own photo?

There’s some scarily real AI generated content out there, both images and video, that is near-indistinguishable from the real thing. And yes, you can argue that there is still a need for human photographers and videographers, but this is now, at the inception of everyday AI.

What about in five or ten years, when this intelligence has access to even more data and its capabilities have been further iterated upon, will we still need them then?

So then, in a similar way that ChatGPT potentially hinders your own learning by shortcutting you straight to the answer, do AI image and video generation tools negate entire careers for photographers and videographers across the globe? Why would I pay someone to take days to do something I can get for free in a matter of moments?

And then, the biggest threat that AI poses in my opinion – its users.

Any tool in the right hands can be transformative to the world of work or even to the future of humanity. But who is to say what the ‘right hands’ are and, is it already too late considering almost anyone can utilise AI to generate content in the present day?

AI requires a level of consideration, comprehension and even governance or rules around its usage. The issues I’ve discussed here are amplified when you consider the case of a user who is not as thorough or comprehensive in their use of such tools and could damage their own careers by blindly copy-pasting what the AI gives them on the assumption that its correct.

The Website Manager that gives only one prompt to ChatGPT to generate website copy that lacks context or detail, the university student who skips classes and gets AI to write their papers for them or the online job applicant that generates all the answers they need to be able to hit ‘apply’.

Whilst each of these people might not get caught out, they’d probably have been better off engaging their own intelligence and learning something along the way. And whilst AI generated content can be easy to detect now (ChatGPT loves numbered lists), as it grows and develops, it might not be so easy to catch in the future.

It’s important to recognise however that, at least today, AI only has access to the information provided to it by us.

We remain the experts, even if the AI tool can produce outputs more efficiently, quickly and accurately than we can in the same amount of time. An AI cannot replace a subject matter expert, nor can it be deployed to support clients in achieving their goals.

Businesses like Serco and its Advisory with Purpose initiative will remain relevant to clients for years to come and, in fact, stand to benefit from integrating AI into their workflows, enabling clients to gain more value from Serco’s subject matter experts as their efficiency increases potentially tenfold.

Going back to what I said earlier in the article, I’m not anti-AI. But I do think that, unless we take some level of control now, we really do risk creating lazier, less intelligent versions of ourselves who rely on an online tool to get us through that next presentation, that next meeting or even that next exam.

Don’t believe me?
Try it. Push the boundaries of what you think ChatGPT can do for you and then focus on how you really feel.

Did your brain feel engaged? Do you feel fulfilled and satisfied with the work you did? Did you learn anything?

I guarantee the answer to at least one of those will be ‘no’, and to me, that’s an early warning sign that users of AI tools need to take a step back and think about the value that they, as a living breathing human being, can add.

After all, AI still requires experts to give it the information it uses, but what if, one day, there’s no experts left?

Senior Solutions Analyst Andy Stephens

Andy Stephens is a seasoned propositions and strategy professional with a genuine passion for operational efficiency and the potential of technology and AI.

His expertise lies in driving growth and exploring innovative ways to enhance workflows. Andy's excitement for the future of tech and AI fuels his commitment to staying at the forefront of advancements, with a focus on creating a more promising and efficient future.