The Unseen Treadmill

The weekend stretched out before me as I sat there, my laptop humming softly, wearing comfy slippers, in my pajamas, and cradling a cup of coffee, pondering… I heard that I could install large language models on my PC at home. How easy could that be?

I mean Generative Predictive Text models all running smoothly without an internet connection, sitting on my hard disk… it was mighty tempting and as promised, surprisingly easy to do.

And it was not just one model, but many… Wizard, Llama, Hermes, Orca, Groovy, Snoozy… all starting to sound like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs… all we needed was a Doc.

No Doc, although, there was a model called Samantha… reportedly built for human interaction, with “training in philosophy, psychology, and personal relationships”. Now ‘she’ did do a passable impression of a therapist… and indeed, after 30 minutes ‘in the chair,’ I did feel better about myself (being asked questions as a customer with vulnerabilities), although admittedly that might have been the coffee kicking in.

My conclusion was that for all the talk of restricting AI and technology… the cat is out of the bag, and undoubtedly, there is no way of putting it back in… it won’t be long before it’s on our phones and in our pockets.

The AI Epoch: Before 2023 and After 2023

This entire field of artificial intelligence has developed at a staggering pace. In preparation for the Credit & Collections Technology Think Tank and events in November/December, I have been reviewing how the headlines have changed over the last year.

There seems to be an increasingly evident divide – before and after ChatGPT. Last year, we hardly heard much about AI… I mean, maybe for those of us in the know… but more niche… But now we have, AI assistants on Snapchat, DJs on Spotify, and my own personal language tutor… it won’t be long before we have 24/7 customer assistance and support. It is fascinating and somewhat unsettling.

The Accelerated Pace of Change

Yet, this isn’t just about the technological change; it’s also about the speed at which it’s all happening.

Within a lifetime, our lifetime, we can remember a slower pace of life… travelling to a meeting, needing to go to the bank, or reading the paper. (And I’m not even going to mention carbon copy memos or Lotus 123 for fear of appearing truly ancient.)

Looking back further, humans used to get up at dawn and travel by foot… compared to that, our world is really operating at breakneck speed…

Stress and Anxiety in the Fast Lane

Now, at this point let’s be honest; we all love a bit of speed; it’s exhilarating, and with a little adrenaline, it gets the blood pumping – thinking about taking off in an airplane, for example.

Yet too much, uncontrolled, it can be perilous…. and once it’s all over, you feel utterly drained.

So in this perpetual chase, a relentless pursuit and adoption of the next thing, are we moving too fast for our biology?

Is this, in part, contributing to our higher levels of stress and anxiety? (Especially when you consider that much of the world just had a nearly two-year slowdown)

It can all feel like an invisible treadmill. Falling even slightly behind can make you lose your sense of mastery, triggering the hide, flight or fight response… Is this acceleration, and the lack of time, at the core of our collective anxiety and stress? Maybe

AI Can Help – But Only if We Allow It

Yet as much we may be reacting to this speed of change, how we deal with it also matters greatly.

And as with all technological advances, throughout history, we essentially have two choices (with the third, smash the technology and go back to living in the past ruled out for needing to finish my Netflix series reasons!).. so

  • Do we harness the new technology, use it to simplify our lives, and focus on what we enjoy and excel at… or
  • Harness the new technology to churn out more of the same at a higher speed.

… quality or quantity (just like data and information!)

Sadly, I fear history points us, like lemmings to a cliff, in relentless competition to fill our day with more work, more output, and more stuff.

However, the wise among us will be building better work, better output, and better stuff… and these will be the people shaping the future, who can take the time for coffee and maybe even a leisurely walk to work.

AI can help, but only if we make the right choices on how this is used… Have a fantastic week, everyone.

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Not Breaking the Bank

Conference season is well and truly upon us now… Last week, I found myself down at the FourNet event at Mansion House in London, talking about all things data and security. It was quite the venue and an interesting day too.

Unique Insights on Social Engineering

The keynote speaker, Jenny Radcliffe from Human Factor Security, had some really interesting insights – social engineering and physical security in the context of data.

I must admit, listening to her speak seemed to induce a collective minor panic attack about social media and LinkedIn profiles across the room. It turns out that even the most well-intentioned acts can leave us exposed if we’re not careful, and we are all targets no matter where we reside in a company. A few photos here, a comment there, and before we know it, a detailed profile on all our lives, habits, and networks can be stitched together.

It was a sobering reminder of how readily we give away private information without a second thought… I mean we even have to be careful holding doors open for people… so no being polite either – can also be a risk used to gain access!

It was all a stark reminder of the human element in security. It’s not just about firewalls and encryption; it’s about understanding human behaviour and how easily we can become targets.

Some of the examples were eye-opening and a reminder for us all to be more vigilant about the information we share, both online and offline.

Trends in IT Investment

Bryan Glick from Computer Weekly also gave his yearly round-up of IT investment across the UK and Europe.

No surprises that IT investment continues. Although what was interesting was that, outside of known areas such as AI etc., there is also significant investment in HR systems it seems.

For all the talk of returning to the office, there is a significant focus ensuring good people management, and managing people remotely too… “Follow the money” is the adage that came to mind here… I am not so sure hybrid working will quickly go away now, despite the beating drums in the media.

A Glimpse into the Future

These events are always a melting pot of ideas, insights, and reflections on the current state of the industry, shedding light on the challenges and opportunities ahead.

As we delve deeper into the autumn, it’s fascinating to see these emerging trends and innovative solutions.

So, more insights expected this week, and at some point, I hope, it will calm down. In the meantime have a good week everyone.

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Does AI need demystifying… already?

Increasingly, the words ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI) are not limited to the realms of science fiction. They’re being used more frequently and interchangeably in the domains of technology, business, and even our everyday lives.

The Hype and Its Ramifications

The term “AI” is buzzing, selling newspapers, software, and technology. Before long, it might even be promoting breakfast cereal. The hype cycle is upon us. This term is thrown about as a catch-all phrase. The incessant chatter revolves around its potential applications, how it’s revolutionizing industries, and its potential to solve the world’s most complex problems. While some of these assertions are undoubtedly true, this approach can be overly simplistic and, at times, potentially wildly inaccurate. AI is a blanket term that encompasses a vast array of techniques, and I find the broad usage increasingly frustrating.

Understanding the Nuances of AI

At its core, AI relies on mathematics and mathematical techniques to determine outcomes. However, the purpose and nature of those outcomes matter significantly. By lumping them together, we risk undermining and conflating their capabilities. So, when we refer to AI, what exactly do we mean? Decision science? Predictive modeling? Machine learning or generative predictive text? Are we aiming to forecast future events or merely predict the next word or image/letter based on historical data? Understanding these outcomes is crucial.

Another intriguing aspect is our evolving relationship with computers. Historically, we’ve perceived computers as precise, engineering tools that operate error-free, in contrast to fallible humans. Although these new AI techniques run on computers, their outputs have become more probabilistic, imperfect, and, in a sense, more human. However, our language still clings to the old paradigm where “the computer is always right.” This perspective might need updating.

The AI Assistant

Personally, I view these new Generative Predictive Text models as helpful assistants—aiding, streamlining processes, and enhancing efficiency. Yet, they still require oversight to ensure the quality and accuracy of their outputs.

In the long run, perspectives will evolve. But for now, let’s ensure we’re not solely chasing the hype and begin to speak more precisely. After all, precision is where the real benefits and productivity lie.

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