Almost Timely News, May 26, 2024: 🗞️ Your AI Future as a Professional

Almost Timely News: 🗞️ Your AI Future as a Professional (2024-05-26) :: View in Browser

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Almost Timely News: 🗞️ Your AI Future as a Professional (2024-05-26)

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What’s On My Mind: Your AI Future as a Professional

This week, I’m finally off the road after a marathon of business travel that took me up and down the east coast, to the west coast, and to the south coast… of Australia. During that time, I had the pleasure and privilege of speaking to audiences large and small in industries like travel, automotive, food and grocery, architecture, engineering, and construction about generative AI.

Throughout my journeys, a few common themes kept recurring, so I thought we’d go over them today.

The first, biggest commonality among all the audiences is the partially mistaken belief that generative AI’s primary purpose is generation of content, from blog posts to social media content, etc. Believe it or not, generation (despite the name) is the use case category that generative AI is least good at.

Why is that the case? Ultimately, generative AI is nothing more than a prediction machine, attempting to predict the next word or the next pixel. Prediction is inherently about probability rather than reality, about guessing what should come next. When you’re guessing, inevitably you’re going to guess wrong, and machines do.

What are the other use cases? In the keynote I’ve been giving for two years now (which, despite the track record, has never been the same twice because everything keeps changing), I outline six major use cases of large language models: generation, extraction, summarization, rewriting, classification, and question answering (though I’m tempted to change the latter to synthesis). The other five use cases are all about using generative AI to transform existing data.

What are some examples of the other use case categories, the ones people didn’t realize generative AI was capable of doing? I showed a whole bunch of examples, like:

  • Extracting meeting notes and action items from call recordings and transcripts
  • Analyzing social media content to determine what content resonated best with an audience
  • Synthesizing an ideal customer profile and then having conversations with it
  • Building a go/no go application that helps a company decide what RFPs to bid on
  • Analyzing a federal budget to determine second order effects on your industry
  • Inferring a competitor’s 12-18 month corporate strategy from public information
  • Validating that we completed a proposal to meet all the requirements given

None of these are about writing blog content or Facebook posts. All of these are about leveraging a language model’s understanding of language itself to accomplish tasks that would take us a hundred times more time and effort to do.

Why didn’t audiences do these things already with AI? Because in so many cases, what they’ve learned about AI, what they’ve read in the media or seen on LinkedIn or heard at conferences have been very pedestrian use cases. To be sure, if using generative AI to write social content saves you a few hours a week, that’s still a worthy use case, but these tools are capable of so, so much more.

How do we fix this narrow scope of vision when it comes to generative AI? With more and more examples – and ideally, with examples that allow people to build their own tools, so they can explore their own use cases fully. In the workshop I taught this past week, participants went home with custom GPTs that they built with their own hands – and because of that, they were excited to use them. More important, they’ll be able to maintain and share them when they get back to the office.

This brings me to the second common theme: generative AI does best when you give it more data to work with. If you’re going to use it for generation, your prompts are (or should be) huge, to give it the best chance of predicting what you want it to do. If you’re using it for summarization, chances are your prompt itself is going to be much shorter by comparison because you’re going to give it all the data it needs to work with. It doesn’t have to invent anything or generate any data.

If you want better and better results from generative AI, provide more and better data. The risk of hallucination – meaning an answer that is statistically correct but factually wrong – goes down as you provide more data. Think of a large language model as a librarian in a library. The library is all the training data that the model was trained on, and the librarian is the small part of the model that does the retrieval (literally named retrieval heads).

Really large libraries (models, in this analogy, like GPT-4-Omni or Gemini 1.5) are likely to have more of what you’ve asked for, but there are still plenty of books in the world that most libraries don’t have, and plenty of knowledge that language models don’t have. So what does the librarian do? In an effort to be helpful, they return the closest similar book. You ask for the Joy of Cooking and they come back with the Joy of Sex, and it’s very close in language… but not at all what you asked for. That’s a hallucination, and the smaller a model is, or the more specific your prompt is, the more likely it is to hallucinate because the library doesn’t have the books.

One of the things I say at the end of my keynotes is that your present and future success with generative AI is largely contingent on the quality and quantity of data you have behind the four walls of your organization. Whoever has the most, best data will have a strategic advantage because everyone else has the generic, public data baked into every major language model. As a result, using just the model with none of your data will result in the same generic, public content that we can all generate.

And to be clear, this isn’t just spreadsheets and databases. This includes EVERYTHING that’s your data – from the emails you write to the conversations and calls you record to the piles of imagery laying around in photo albums to the photos of whiteboards in the office. For example, if AI isn’t capturing your voice or writing style, it’s because you’re not providing enough examples of it. Given enough examples, both digested and as-is, most generative systems can quite capably replicate a writing style.

And that leads to the third theme, voiced by several different folks: “Do these tools really know our industry?”. The answer is maybe. They know surface details about every industry, but they don’t necessarily know what you know, because so much of the specifics of an industry is behind the four walls of companies in that industry.

I often refer to generative AI systems, especially language models, as the world’s smartest interns. They’re knowledgeable in general, very capable, very clever, but they know nothing about your company specifically. They haven’t read your emails, sat in your meetings, made work product for you. Asking an intern on day 1 at your company to build your company’s go to market strategy with no provided information and no specific, highly detailed instructions is a recipe for failure. In exactly the same way, asking generative AI to do that same task in the same way is also doomed to fail.

AI tools know as much as is generally available plus the information you provide them. Provide the most, best data in your work with them, and you’ll get the best results out of them.

The final theme I want to touch on is who you are as a person, as a professional. We are now in the age of AI, when we are more than just human beings. People have said, somewhat cleverly, that AI stands for augmented intelligence, and that’s true, if vague. It means more than just being good at a specific tool. Augmented intelligence, if we really want to extend the metaphor to encompass the true power of AI, is about you plus your AI team.

Let me underscore that. AI is about you plus your AI team.

What does that mean? It means that you’ll have your own tooling that’s part of your secret sauce as a working professional. Today, we have systems like Custom GPTs in OpenAI or Gems in Google Gemini or any of the systems that allow you to build easy-to-use, pre-programmed, pre-prompted utilities, you’ll have a library of applications based on the prompts you’ve written that travel with you, that are part of your value as a professional.

Suppose, for example, of the 140 architecture professionals I taught this week, one of them develops THE killer app for go/no-go proposal bidding. That person would have an outsized advantage in that particular task, to the point where other companies might seek them out specifically for that skill. It’s not just them the person, but them and their portfolio of apps that give them superhuman powers.

And that’s today. We already see the trend, the direction this is going. Google and Microsoft both announced that you can create virtual team members, virtual employees within a workspace. The technology to build a virtual team member exists today, but it’s technically challenging. The technology to build that tomorrow will be as straightforward as a prompt and some documents – and no one said that the capability needs to be restricted to just enterprise companies.

We already have a model for this – agencies. You don’t just hire Christopher Penn, you hire Trust Insights which contains the various team members, each of whom add value to an engagement. In fact, last week I showed one of our clients the virtual team member we constructed just for them.

In the age of AI, you and your AI-based team members are an agency in your own right.

The implications for this are huge. For individual workers, you should be thinking about building such a team, a virtual office of capabilities that enhance your value as a professional. As you build that, you’ll also need to keep in mind that your employment contracts will – or should – look less and less like employee/employer contracts and more like business to business contracts, the same way that you would contract Trust Insights as a partner. What does your future agency of you the human plus a dozen or a hundred of your AI team members look like?

For companies, you should be avidly protecting your data, because your data is your strategic advantage, and giving it away is going to be far more harmful tomorrow than it is today. You’ll want to negotiate carefully with partners, be clear and fair with your employees, and be cautious about what you share with technology vendors. Anyone who works in the AI space understands just how valuable any good quality data is, and how difficult it is to obtain; in fact, one of the new jobs AI has spawned is dedicated content creation roles specifically to build training data for AI, content that never sees the light of day outside a server room.

Is this going to be the future of every professional? No. Is it going to be the future of the most valuable professionals? Probably. Someone who understands the value of their knowledge also understands making that knowledge scale, making that knowledge work even when they themselves are not working. We have old models like books and self-paced courses where people can make use of our knowledge indirectly. Now, with virtual team members and AI agents built in our image, we have far more capable, rich ways for people to work with us any time they want.

I look forward to meeting the agency of you in the near future.

As always, shameless plug, if you want me to come speak at your event or train your team as I did the last two weeks around the world, this is literally what my company does, so hit me up.

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ICYMI: In Case You Missed it

Besides the newly updated Generative AI for Marketers course I’m relentlessly flogging, this week I talked about generative AI optimization.

Skill Up With Classes

These are just a few of the classes I have available over at the Trust Insights website that you can take.



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If you work at a company or organization that wants to do bulk licensing, let me know!

Get Back to Work

Folks who post jobs in the free Analytics for Marketers Slack community may have those jobs shared here, too. If you’re looking for work, check out these recent open positions, and check out the Slack group for the comprehensive list.

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How to Stay in Touch

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Events I’ll Be At

Here are the public events where I’m speaking and attending. Say hi if you’re at an event also:

  • MAICON, Cleveland, September 2024
  • Traceone User Conference, Miami, September 2024
  • MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Boston, November 2024

There are also private events that aren’t open to the public.

If you’re an event organizer, let me help your event shine. Visit my speaking page for more details.

Can’t be at an event? Stop by my private Slack group instead, Analytics for Marketers.

Required Disclosures

Events with links have purchased sponsorships in this newsletter and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

Advertisements in this newsletter have paid to be promoted, and as a result, I receive direct financial compensation for promoting them.

My company, Trust Insights, maintains business partnerships with companies including, but not limited to, IBM, Cisco Systems, Amazon, Talkwalker, MarketingProfs, MarketMuse, Agorapulse, Hubspot, Informa, Demandbase, The Marketing AI Institute, and others. While links shared from partners are not explicit endorsements, nor do they directly financially benefit Trust Insights, a commercial relationship exists for which Trust Insights may receive indirect financial benefit, and thus I may receive indirect financial benefit from them as well.

Thank You

Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support, your attention, and your kindness.

See you next week,

Christopher S. Penn

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