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AI: Are you excited, scared, or clueless?

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READY OR NOT Artificial intelligence is here in a big way, which can be scary or exciting, or both. (Illustration:

AI, ChatGPT, chatbot…the mention of those letters (words?) makes my brain turn off. Which sadly means my brain must be shut down pretty often. 

At least I’m not the only one. When I asked one friend at lunch what she knew about AI and ChatGPT, she answered, “I have no idea what you’re speaking of.” Another merely said, “I would talk all day about the pros and cons of artificial intelligence if others would hush up talking about [certain politicians]. Frankly, they both scare me to death.” A little off topic, but whatever.

One of the smartest (and maybe most outspoken) people I know, with an MBA and an impressive resume, said, “It makes my head hurt to think about it. I try, and then I’m like, Ugh.

“It’s like the whole crypto thing. On an intellectual level I know I understand what it is, but I still think it’s stupid and don’t even want to understand it. We had some friends who got real caught up in the crypto, but they didn’t really understand it that well. We were at dinner, and they were like, ‘We’ve got this guy, and we get a nine percent return every month,’ and I was like, ‘That’s a Ponzi scheme and if that’s the case can we just give them $100,000 for a year and then pull out? Because that’s not gonna work.’

“I don’t know what it was, but they’re not getting their checks every month anymore. They were building a house and had to dial that back, and they were like, ‘We think it’s too big,’ and [my husband] was like, ‘Yeah, because you’re in a f-ing Ponzi scheme!’ Their house is a little smaller than they planned.”

So while I’m not the only one sitting at dinner nodding and pretending to get it (and also trying not to freak out – is anyone else concerned about giant AI robots taking over the universe, like in one of those movies I refuse to watch?), there actually are some people who are using this stuff for good.

Take sweet (and smart) Lewis Kalmans, the Morgan Stanley Family Wealth Director. He uses ChatGPT to write special-occasion poems for his family. 

“For some time, I have written poems for various occasions – birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, anniversaries,” he says. “I find that I can leverage my time by asking ChatGPT to help. I don’t just ask for a poem and use all of what is provided. I give details about the people and their passions, then it helps me generate ideas. Then, I use many of my own words, phrases, and content to make sure the poem looks and sounds like me. I think people enjoy a personalized poem much more than a $4.99 generic card from Target or the grocery store.”

Then there’s a seasoned marketing exec who says, “I know it, understand it, and use it, but not extensively. You just ask it questions. I’ll often use it to get me started on a brainstorm, and the resulting list that it generates is just enough to get me going on a list of my own ideas. Or it can create ‘boiler plate’ copy for something. It can also explain things to you in summary format.”

We asked our marketing friend how to get started. “Use it the way you would use Google,” they said. “But instead of getting a list of possible sites to visit to get answers to your question, it just gives you those answers.” As an example, they asked ChatGPT What are some unique magazine topics for the month of July? The AI assistant responded with a long list of ideas starting with: “1. ‘Summer Escapes’: A magazine focusing on unique and lesser-known travel destinations.” Then they changed the question a bit to What are some unique topics for a July issue of a neighborhood magazine? We got another list starting with: “1. ‘Community Picnic Extravaganza’: Highlighting a local neighborhood picnic event, featuring interviews with organizers, coverage of activities, and tips for hosting a successful community gathering.”

“I’m not scared to use it,” our friend said, “and you shouldn’t be either. What’s scary is how it will be abused.”

While I was writing this, an ad popped up on my computer for GrammarlyGo, an AI writing assistant. “GrammarlyGo understands your context, your voice, and your style,” the ad said. “It takes whatever’s on the tip of your tongue and turns it into something more.” 

Well, obviously, someone or something is listening as I write. And that’s almost as scary as the giant robots.

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