AI: stuff of science fiction is now a business reality

Midway Chamber panel talks about how artificial intelligence is affecting business

Generative AI has captivated the world since the launch of Chat GBT on Nov. 30, 2022, observed Ron Lancaster of Structural, an Augeo company, but AI has been around much longer than that. 
It’s a part of the customer chats on Amazon, used for facial and speech recognition on cell phones, behind internet marketing algorithms, and generating the prompts as you type.
  “What AI is capable of doing is the stuff of science fiction,” stated Lancaster. 
During a Midway Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Sept. 20, 2023, Andrew Eklund, the founder of Ciceron, gave a demonstration of ChatGPT. Google gives users a series of results and links, he explained. ChatGPT gives people the answers by scouring the entire internet for them and then synthesizing them. 
ChatGPT stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, and is a large language model-based chatbot developed by OpenAI. It enables users to refine and steer a conversation towards a desired length, format, style, level of detail, and language. ChatGPT is built upon either GPT-3.5 or GPT-4.
Businesses can use artificial intelligence, more commonly referred to as AI, in a lot of ways, according to Michelle Tran Maryns of We Sparkle. We Sparkle Co. is a certified small/minority/woman-owned public benefit corporation based in Prospect Park. They offer entrepreneurs help for buying products, scheduling services, and getting questions answered by one’s own AI Assistant. Current businesses using We Sparkle are the Coven, Meet Minneapolis, Neighborhood Development Center, Co-Motion, and Junior Achievement.
“Our AI is trained with information businesses typically get asked,” said Tran Maryns. It can be used as a widget on a website or run through Facebook Messenger. “You can use an AI assistant to schedule appointments for you. We very narrowly define it for your business.”
Large organizations are currently spending millions of dollars on AI development, pointed out Lancaster. He anticipates things changing a lot within the next couple years. 
“Use the free tools and get that experience as quickly as possible. The change is coming fast,” said Lancaster. 
Among the tools suggested by speakers were ChatGPT, DALL-E, Canva’s AI options, Midjourney (available in Discord), and the options in Bing. 
Some have voiced concerns about AI replacing people and existing jobs. “History repeats itself,” according to Eklund. People expressed these same concerns when the Internet started. Then when computers were created, they said it would replace jobs.
“That didn’t happen,” Eklund said. “Think of it as a smarter set of tools.”
He added, “This is not just a better search engine.” Large language models (LLM) are being used by businesses like Tesla for self-driving cars. AI has the ability to interpret what is happening on the road and predict what will happen. 
AI can do tasks to help where there are needs, such as with the nursing shortage. “There’s a lot of things happening in the world converging all at once,” said Eklund. 
AI can pass bar exams and medical certification tests – and can now earn higher scores than humans. It’s been trained off very set and specific data sets in an industry. Eklund believes that this can be useful for businesses, as AI assistants can be personalized to add scale. AI can be used for “work that no human enjoys, period,” he said. “Why not outsource that and have the human do something that is fulfilling?”
AI could be trained to look at mammograms, to triage what scans need further evaluation by a human and which don’t. The important piece to remember is that AI isn’t “making the decisions but prioritizing whether to look at humans,” said Tran Maryns.
AI can be used to increase productivity by substantial amounts, and has been shown to in various studies, according to Lancaster.
ChatGPT can be useful to generate content for a website or speech, but Lancaster urged people to be careful about putting the information out there as though it came from an expert when it didn’t. It still needs to be checked by an expert. 
AI can generate amazing images, but they can give biased results.
“I worry about things like bias,” said Tran Maryns. She acknowledges that “trash in” is “trash out,” and welcomes conversations about how to manage the evolution of AI. It’s important to take it with a grain of salt, she advised, and consider what data has been plugged into the AI.
ChatGPT has only been around about a year. “This is very new technology,” said Eklund. “Who is behind the AI and what is their bias?” And while the original AI was free and open, now there are large companies with shareholders building their own systems, such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google.
What might AI look like in the future?
By analyzing genetic code, it could diagnose cancer earlier enough to save a person’s life, observed Eklund. “I don’t know if we will call that AI.” He mused, “I think a lot will happen in ways that are not called AI.”
“I think there will be a lot of tension as AI grows,” stated Trans Maryns. “I am overall positive about AI and what it can do. I worry about us coming together as a society.” Among the ethical concerns she has is who gets higher priority and what happens to others? AI is trained to mimic human intelligence, and the potential is there for it to know so much about the natural world that could be used to reverse climate change. 
Five years ago, it couldn’t see as well as humans. It couldn’t speak as well as humans. It couldn’t hear as well as humans. It can now. Five years from now, things can change dramatically again.
There’s an open source model out that can create music. AI is being used to create realistic-looking photos. “There’s still a place for humans,” said Lancaster, who sees a place for both AI-generated art and human-made art. 
There is a concern about how AI will impact the creative economy, observed Tran Maryns. AI can scrap information and then not offer credit. This brings up moral and ethical concerns.  With a background in music, Tran Maryns said, “I believe we as a society need to come together.” Currently, Getty Images is suing an AI image creator. There is the possibility of adding watermarks for intellectual property or using block chain. “I’m really interested in these kinds of solutions,” said Tran Maryns.
“I believe in the near future, art and music specifically will be tailored to taste,” said Lancaster. 
Eklund is a musician who views this as a deeply moral issue. A listener will be able to alter music by a favorite artist; another artist will be able to use music that originally came from AI and build on it. Stations like KQRS are already using AI to generate playlists, he pointed out. Using a tokenized currency would enable artists to be paid for their work being used by others. “Bitcoin is not dead,” he said.
“Whether you like it or not, AI is already in the world,” said Tran Maryns.
“I don’t think we have to look very far into the future to adopt it in our everyday lives,” said Lancaster. “AI is an incredible skill leveler that can be used to bring people up. I think that is truly transformative and revolutionary.”


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