Mind Readings: AI is Amplification of Intelligence

Mind Readings: AI is Amplification of Intelligence

In today’s episode, you’ll learn how AI can enhance your existing skills without the need to become an expert. You’ll discover strategies for overcoming skill gaps and staying ahead in a rapidly changing work environment. You’ll find out how to focus on developing your ideas while AI takes care of the manual work. Get ready to transform your role and boost your productivity!

Mind Readings: AI is Amplification of Intelligence

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Machine-Generated Transcript

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Christopher Penn: Let’s talk about amplification of intelligence today. I suck at Python coding. I really do. I’m bad at it. It’s never been something I studied. It’s not my favorite language. I’m much more proficient with and comfortable with the programming language R—I’m old, right? I grew up with structured languages like C and C++. And so Python and the weird, wacky way that it’s structured, it’s not my favorite thing. And as a result, I’m not very good at it.

So here’s the thing about coding, though. If you can code in any language proficiently—any Java base, Visual Basic, COBOL—you have a fundamental understanding of how coding works: you understand logic, you understand loops and conditions and all these things. You know, broadly, what questions to ask; you know, broadly, probably what’s going to go wrong; you know how to write solid requirements; you know the best practices of coding, right, to document things, to name variables sensible things instead of obscure names—which means that in an era when machines can write code, when generative AI can do the actual coding, as long as you know what to ask for and how to debug it, it’s a very powerful tool. If you know what the architecture of the script or the app should be, if you know what shouldn’t happen, then you can have generative AI do the grunt work of pressing the keys on the keyboard and writing, “def function name” and tabbing in one tab, and then subsequent loops have to be tabbed in two tabs and stuff. That’s—machines can and should do that.

This is the separation that AI creates in knowledge work. This is a nuance that a lot of folks miss in the conversations about what jobs AI will or won’t take. When we say that AI is going to replace X or Y or Z or this job or that job, very often we’re talking about the actual work effort, not the work thought or the work idea. Do you need a developer to press the keys on a keyboard to generate code? Probably not. Do you need a developer to design the architecture and know when AI is making mistakes? Absolutely, yes.

Do you need a good writer to physically type the words? No. Do you need a good writer to analyze the words that a machine types and say, “That’s incoherent! That makes no sense whatsoever?” Absolutely, yes. This is how our role as workers, as professionals, as people is changing. We don’t have to be the ones doing the physical labor—we have—but we absolutely have to be the ones managing the machines that do the labor. That is a key distinction.

This morning, I was brushing up on a piece of Python code that I had directed AI to write. It does—it’s pretty simple. It crawls a website, it scans each page, and says, “Here’s where your various Martech tracking codes are. Here’s your tag manager tag. Here’s your GA four account. Here’s your HubSpot tag,” etc., on a per-page basis. This is—there’s a number of tools in the market that do this. I just wanted my own. Did I handwrite that Python code to do that? Nope. Sure didn’t. Did I give generative AI the clear, detailed instructions and the requirements? “And here’s what this thing has to be able to do. And here’s how I want to use it.” Yes, I gave it the idea. I gave it the concept, and I gave it very stringent requirements. Did I debug AI’s many, many errors in the code? Uh-huh. Sure did.

And here’s the thing, as a not-so-good Python developer, I got done with a piece of code that works. It’s in production. And it’s, frankly, it’s better than I could have written on my own. I have a tendency to skip things like error handling. It was done in a fraction of the time it would have taken me to write that code otherwise. AI didn’t replace the ideation. It didn’t replace the architecture of the idea. It didn’t replace the tuning and the debugging of the idea. And it didn’t replace the implementation of the idea—taking the outputs of code and doing something with them. It just replaced the manual labor of actually writing the code.

If you are unskilled with ideas, you’re going to get unskilled outputs from generative AI. If you are skilled at ideas, you will get skillful outputs from generative AI—as long as you can prompt it correctly. What AI does in this example, and in many examples like it, is expand my capabilities as a professional. I can now do more in the same amount of time. I can create better work product than I could have before. It’s less—it’s less artificial intelligence and more amplification of intelligence. It is amplifying the intelligence I already bring to the party. It makes me better at what I do.

Once you’re competent at the use of AI, the only thing that limits your capabilities are the quality and quantity of your ideas. The most best ideas will win. And so the takeaway here is that this is not about AI outright taking your job. Yes, there are some jobs it will absolutely outright take—those are single-task jobs or jobs with a very few limited number of tasks. For example, I used to work at a PR firm, and there’s this one job at this firm, a media monitoring job. The person in that role, that they were a junior person, was copying and pasting results from Google into a spreadsheet, eight hours a day. There is no reason for that position to exist. You do not need a human for that. That is something that we need to be aware of—that is something a machine absolutely should do because it’s mind-numbing work. That person could be reskilled or upskilled to using AI to do that thing. And then maybe instead of doing it for one client, they could scale to do it for ten or twenty or thirty clients because they got machinery doing the actual physical work. They still need to exercise judgment; they still need to interface with the rest of the team; they still need to talk to the client. There are still parts of that job that might be valuable. You might have fewer people in that new job because AI makes them more productive.

And that’s where—to the extent that AI is just going to eat jobs—it’s not going to take away the entire job. What it’s going to do is make the people in the job more efficient, and you’ll be able to do either more with the same number of people or do the same workload with fewer people. That’s the impact AI is going to have there.

So it is all about amplification of intelligence, and the faster that you can adopt it, the faster it will amplify the things that you’re already good at and make you more productive, make you more powerful, make you more valuable to the company that you work at. But you got to get on board and got to get using it. That’s gonna do it for today’s episode. Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next time.

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