Robots Are Just Tools, Part 1

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bionic hand and human hand finger pointing

The robots are coming! The robots are coming!

People have been saying this for decades. And while the robots have slowly been taking over our workplace, our kitchens, and even our parenting duties to some degree, nothing will be more transformative over the next five to ten years as AI and ChatGPT.

You’ve probably heard or read a fair amount about AI and ChatGPT over the past couple of years and certainly in the last few months.

For those who are uninitiated, let me give you a thumbnail sketch.

AI is the abbreviation for Artificial Intelligence which is a branch of computer science that focuses on creating intelligent machines that can work and think like humans.

ChatGPT is a form of AI, and it stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer. Kinda sounds like a teenage Optimus before his Prime. [womp womp trombone sound]

But there’s more than meets the eye. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.) Because really what we’re battling here is a large language model built on many terabytes of collected data that can engage in human-like conversations with ordinary people.

While the horizon is vast, ChatGPT does have its limitations. The most widely used version of ChatGPT is 3.5 and in its own words tells us “I continually learn and improve based on the data available up until my knowledge cutoff in September 2021.”

So, as you might have guessed, it’s not connected to the internet and so cannot provide any information on content or events that occurred after September 2021. But don’t worry, because GPT-4 is freely available on the Microsoft Bing platform in the Edge browser, and it is fully integrated to access the internet in real time to provide up-to-the-second information.

With that being said, do understand there are limitations to Bing’s use of GPT-4. Microsoft has implemented a limit of 20 prompts per conversation and 150 separate conversations per day. So, while that should be plenty of searching and chatting for most folks, do know there are limits if you are writing your thesis at the eleventh hour and you want Bing to do the work for you. Just kidding. I know you would definitely not do that.

Before we go any further into the current state of AI, let’s take a look back at the history of automation, computer development, and Artificial Intelligence as it emerged and developed over the millennia. Yes, I said millennia.

Understand that AI is not exactly new.

In fact, the term Artificial Intelligence was first coined in 1956 when John McCarthy, a computer scientist and cognitive scientist used this term at the Dartmouth Conference to describe the field of study and research dedicated to creating intelligent machines that can simulate human intelligence.

But that’s just in the recent past. Way before John McCarthy and the Dartmouth Conference, back in ancient Greece around 800BC, Homer recounts stories of Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire, smithing, and craft, using automated bellows to execute simple repetitive labor.

400 years later we see Talos, the great bronze giant, created by Hephaestus (yes, the same Hephaestus…remember gods don’t die). Talos was tasked with keeping watch over the island of Crete. He’d hurl boulders at incoming boats and trespassers to keep the island free of invaders.

About 400 years after that in 8AD, Ovid wrote about Pygmalion, the great Greek sculptor. Upon seeing countless prostitutes and unfit women, Pygmalion set out to create the most beautiful statue in all the land. He eventually did so and soon fell in love with his creation, kissing and caressing it incessantly. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, seeing how enamored Pygmalion was, brought the statue to life so the artist could finally have someone to truly love.

I know it seems like all the automation seems to come from ancient Greece, and this was not lost on the rest of the world, because we see translations and stolen blueprints leaving the Greek-speaking world and making its way to Babylon, Arabia, India, Tibet, and China.

Apparently, everyone wanted their own robots.

And these new robots continued to be used for protection and companionship, but also for music, math, and mechanics as well.

While many of these previous automatons have some form of mechanics and automation, the first computer was conceived in 1837, when Charles Babbage came up with the idea for an automatic computer, and by 1856, he had finished designing his invention. Though Babbage died before he was able to build it, he is often called the “Father of Computing.”

And while Babbage is called the “father of computing,” Alan Turing is considered the “Father of Computer Science.” In 1936 he set out the concept for the modern computer, the Electromechanical Turing Machine.

And in 1950, Turing designed the Turing Test which was created to see if a human could determine whether it was “talking” with a human or a machine.

Keeping on with human v. machine, we see computers in the sixties through the nineties like the ENIAC and IBM’s Big Blue to help humans with more mundane tasks of large mathematical computing and theorizing.

Soon after that, machines were beating people at checkers, chess, and even Jeopardy!

All this to say that it looks like computers are getting better and better at becoming more human-like. In fact, you’re probably already good friends with some of these AI components already.

Nearly all of us have an Amazon Echo, an Apple HomePod, or a Google Nest Audio in our homes fetching the news, changing the lights, and blasting our favorite tunes.

These are all great advancements, but watch out, because the next era of AI is going to be completely disruptive.

And the good news is you get to decide which role you want to play in the oncoming disruption – the disruptor or the disrupted.

Because when it comes down to it, we all will be affected by AI and ChatGPT. We are going to see it in our personal and professional effectiveness, our interpersonal relationships, and our mental, emotional, and physical fitness.

With so much potential upside and considerable downside, you probably want to be sure you’re in the know and ahead of the curve. Lucky for you, I’ve got a few shortcuts to share with you to ensure that you become more engaged with AI and ChatGPT and more skillful in using these tools to be your most productive at work and effective in life.

I’ll share those in the next post.

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