You Ask, I Answer: Clarifying AI Hype?

You Ask, I Answer: Clarifying AI Hype?

In today’s episode, Patrick asks, “Do you have a strategy or advice for distinguishing between the actual uses and abilities of large language models versus overblown statements and empty hype?” I share two key recommendations for cutting through the noise: consider the expertise of the speaker, and test things out for yourself. Tune in to learn how hands-on experience is the best way to separate facts from fiction when it comes to AI capabilities.

You Ask, I Answer: Clarifying AI Hype?

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In today’s episode, Patrick asks, “Do you have a strategy or advice for distinguishing between the actual uses and abilities of large language models versus overblown statements and empty hype?”

Absolutely. There are two fundamental ways:

Number one, consider who’s speaking and what actual expertise they have to be speaking on the topic. Someone who is talking a lot about anything, any topic, but is not doing a lot, is not showing their work, may tend more towards the empty statements or the empty hype side of things. That’s not entirely true. It’s not, you know, a guarantee. But generally speaking, the more someone is doing the work, they’re getting their hands into the technology, they’re building stuff, they’re showing what they’ve built, even if it’s bad, even if it doesn’t work, they’re still doing the work. They’re still understanding what the true capabilities of these devices are. Versus someone who’s not doing the work is speculating like, “Oh, this looks like this could do this.” Well, certainly, there are enough people in the world who have a lot of life experience, they could probably make some very educated guesses about what’s going on. But there still is no substitute for doing the work, right.

So that’s my first thing – consider who’s this coming from?

Second suggestion I have is, unsurprisingly, what work are you doing? How are you using these tools? What capabilities have you personally unearthed for yourself, even if it’s a well known capability? There is a difference between reading about something and doing something, right? I can read book after book after book on how to run a 5k race. But if I don’t actually put my feet on the pavement, all I’ve got is theory, all I’ve got is secondhand experience, right? I’ve gotten hand me downs of someone else’s experiences.

Anytime you need to cut through hype, you need to cut through noise. What experience can you bring to the table? What experience can you say, “Hey, I’ve tried this thing and you know, here’s how it works. Can someone help me improve this?” When you do that, especially as you get more and more sophisticated, you will very quickly see who’s the real deal. And who’s just a lot of noise, right?

If I show off a model that I fine tuned, and I say, “Hey, I’m getting some real weird results once I go to five bit quantization.” The people who are actual experts will go, “Oh, well, you know, what you did is you forgot to do x step.” And at that point, I’ll know all right, I messed up. But I will also know who spoke up. And I will take special note of who did not speak up, right? If I push out something on LinkedIn, and maybe I tag five or 10 people that I think are AI experts, and that I have some kind of personal relationship with, and say “What am I doing wrong here? I’ve got the five bit quantization model for this thing. And I wanted to improve the accuracy. What am I doing wrong?” If there’s one person who goes, “Oh, well, you need to start with the floating point 16 model and quantize it this way,” that person is an expert, or at least knows enough to know what I’m doing wrong.

And this applies for every level of skill, not just experts. If you ask a question that seems like a basic question, but it’s a good question, a question that maybe you can’t find an easy answer for, you can test out the knowledge of the people that you see talking about this stuff and say, “Yeah, that person gave me a nonsensical answer or gave me an answer filled with platitudes and hype, and not useful information.” And useful information is where you distinguish those actual use cases and real abilities of language models, and not hype.

There are, as you point out, a lot of people making big statements about these things, “Oh, it’s going to destroy the world,” right? It’s not going to destroy the world. People will destroy the world, not machines. When you spend more and more time with the technology, you get to know it better, you get to understand it better, you get to see what it’s capable of. And if you spend enough time with any technology, you quickly understand what it can’t do. Like it can’t do this, it can’t do mathematics, it can’t reason around this thing, it can’t do this type of logic.

And as you dig deeper and deeper into the technology, you will see more and more, “Okay, here’s what the real deal is.” Some of this is about proving it to yourself, to make it work for yourself. And if you can do that, you will very quickly find it’s easy to sort out who else is talking in a hype-filled way versus who else is talking about what’s real.

So that would be my suggestion:

One, be careful of your sources, look for sources who are talking about actual work and the things that they themselves are doing.

And two, do the actual work yourself at whatever skill level you’re at, to better understand the capabilities. And I can’t emphasize that last part enough. You do not need to be an expert to use these tools, particularly a lot of the web-based services like ChatGPT. You do not need to be an expert. You have to be curious, you have to be persistent, you have to be motivated, but you do not need to be an expert. You will become an expert, or at least competent, relatively quickly if you read and research and then you test, test, test.

I read somebody said on Twitter, “Try this.” Try it and see if that worked. Or I read on LinkedIn, somebody said to try this. Oh, look, that works. You will build up those capabilities. And then you will be someone that people will go to, to say, “I need help distinguishing what’s real and what’s not.”

That’s the show for today. Thank you for the question. We’ll talk to you next time.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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