Almost Timely News, June 16, 2024: 🗞️ How to Use Fractal Thinking to Scale Generative AI Use Cases

Almost Timely News: 🗞️ How to Use Fractal Thinking to Scale Generative AI Use Cases (2024-06-16) :: View in Browser

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Almost Timely News: 🗞️ How to Use Fractal Thinking to Scale Generative AI Use Cases (2024-06-16)

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What’s On My Mind: How to Use Fractal Thinking to Scale Generative AI Use Cases

One of the biggest obstacles to people taking full advantage of generative AI is that they lack the vocabulary and concepts to do so. It’s not a technology issue per se; the technology today is more than capable of handling incredibly complex language tasks with great fluency. But as with any computational system, quality inputs lead to quality outputs.

This is the obstacle that management consulting often refers to as “the art of the possible” – what things are possible with a technology like a large language model, multimodal model, etc. And while simple use cases can show immediate value and impact, large impact comes from bigger picture use cases.

There’s a concept in mathematics that helps us understand this to some degree, fractals. When you look at a fractal, you’re looking at a tiny, atomic representation of something. Benoit Mandelbrot coined the term fractal in 1975. What’s special about fractals is that as they grow larger, they have self-repeating patterns that resemble their tiny selves; a fractal rectangle becomes a pattern of rectangles, and as the fractal grows, it takes on more complex shapes but ultimately retains the heart of what it started as.

If you’ve ever looked carefully at a leaf of a tree, examining the patterns of the midribs and veins, you’ll notice it looks an awful lot like a tree itself. Waves on the ocean look very similar, from tiny little waves lapping at crystal sands to big tidal waves and pipes that surfers ride. In these examples in nature, the little thing begets the big thing; a big wave is made of the same water as a little wave.

Okay, so what does this have to do with AI? Applying the same concept helps us broaden our perspective about what AI can do – and helps us understand the power that AI scale brings to problems. Let’s look at a fractal example to see it in action.

We’ll start with a single session from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference 2024 – WWDC24 – about, say, Semantic Search and Core Spotlight. You don’t need to know what the session was about per se; we’re just using it as an example. How would you use generative AI with this piece of content? You could, for example, use the free yt-dlp utility to download the closed captions from this session and then have generative AI outline the session’s key points:

WWDC24 session summary in Gemini

That’s the small fractal unit – a helpful summarization. You could have it rewrite the key points in non-technical language, so that you can understand how it applies to you. These atomic tasks are very common, and hopefully you’re already using them. So now let’s apply the fractal principle. What if you wanted to do more than just a single session? What if you wanted to understand all of WWDC24? Could you do that?

Of course. You’d gather up ALL the transcripts from all the sessions, compile them, and load them into a language model like Gemini that can handle that much data. (Gemini this week announced that it now has a context window – a short-term memory – of 2 million tokens, or about 1.5 million words) Now, instead of a single session, you could summarize or ask questions of WWDC24 as a whole, like what exactly Apple’s Semantic Index is, or how generative AI is implemented on the iPhone with more detail than just the glossy keynote talk:

WWDC24 Semantic Index summary

We’ve taken the same task from a granular, atomic task with a single piece of data and expanded it – with the same capabilities – to much larger datasets.

Now, we know that the background technology Apple needs to make its models work rely on specialized hardware and software built into iPhones and Macs – and that hardware has been present for years, a point I made in this article in Forbes with Sandy Carter. Apple has been laying the groundwork for years for their Apple Intelligence capabilities.

Suppose we wanted to understand the really big picture, and what the trail of breadcrumbs has been. If you were to download and process all of Apple’s AI-related academic papers and research for the last 5 years, you could add that to the Gemini working session (which amounts to a total of about 1.2 million words) and ask questions of that.

Really big examination of Apple’s breadcrumbs

We’ve now got the ability to understand enormous amounts of data by asking questions of it in totality. AI can keep in memory far more text than any human can recall with precision in a short period of time. For reference, 1.5 million words is about the length of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice compendium (the entire Games of Thrones novels), and generative AI has far more precise recall than we do.

That’s the fractal principle – going from a small task to a big task while the principles and techniques remain largely the same. The major AI use cases I talk about in my keynotes – generation, extraction, summarization, rewriting, classification, question answering, and synthesis – apply to any task small or large, but approaching with a fractal mindset opens the doors to questions we didn’t think we could answer.

Here’s another example. What does it mean when a company hires for a position? In general, that means there’s a distinct need, a strategic priority that the company needs to fulfill. Companies have a lot of options for fulfilling a need – they can hire an agency to do the task, or bring on a short-term contractor, or outsource a class of job. In general, hiring for a role and bringing on an employee is a difficult, time-consuming, expensive task. You only do it when there’s a real need that other options can’t fulfill.

Thus, we know that when a company has an open position, that’s a hint about what’s going on at a company. If we were to download the job description for an open position, along with background information about the company, we could use that job description’s specifics to infer what the company’s priorities were in that particular role or department, like this:

Gemini open job analysis

That already tells us something. But what if we approach this from a fractal mindset? What if we grab the job descriptions for every role in that department? Could you, for example, determine a company’s overall marketing strategy from all the open marketing job positions?

Well, yes:

Gemini open jobs in marketing analysis

From this analysis, we understand what the company’s marketing needs are – and based on that, we can infer what the company’s overall marketing strategy going forward is likely to be. Again, this is logical: you don’t hire for things you don’t need.

Now, let’s think bigger. Could we understand the company’s corporate strategy? Of course. It’s the fractal principle at work. We can digest down all the open positions and their job descriptions, and see where the company as a whole is going at great scale:

Gemini open jobs at company analysis

And the final application of the principle, one that a company like McKinsey, Deloitte, BCG, Gartner, or Forrester might take? Of course, you guessed it. Grab the open job positions from every leading company in that industry and take a look at where the industry as a whole is going.

Gemini open jobs industry analysis

That level of strategic analysis defies what the average analyst is capable of, simply because they can’t hold that much data in their heads. But generative AI gives us those capabilities if we think to ask it.

We can even go one more step and ask the model, based on proven management consulting practices and its knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry, what the blind spots are based on what they’re not hiring for:

Gemini open jobs blind spot analysis

That’s incredible. It shows exactly what’s at stake in the industry and what needs aren’t being addressed. Wouldn’t that be a powerful strategic advantage for your business, if you were in that industry?

At Trust Insights, we’ve used the fractal principle for things like building data-driven ideal customer profiles (B2B and B2C), doing content trends (especially looking at massive amounts of content to see what isn’t being talked about), understanding customer experience at giant scale (like feedback from thousands of customers per week for B2C clients), and more. The fractal principle is what lets you take a small use case for generative AI that’s a tactical convenience and transform it into a defensible strategic advantage.

The lesson I want you to take away from this is to look at how you’re using generative AI today, and ask how you can apply the fractal principle to scale that usage. What data are you already working with that you might extend and augment? What bigger picture items could you follow this approach with and use?

As always, shameless plug, if you want help with scaling your generative AI systems and processes like I did in this example, this is literally what my company does, so if getting started with this use of generative AI is of interest, hit me up.

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ICYMI: In Case You Missed it

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

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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.

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See you next week,

Christopher S. Penn

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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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