AI-Giarism and the future of content generation

It’s a new year and the journey continues. I hope you made it aboard your train and are speeding mindfully to your next destination in 2023. I wish you all the best and look forward to catching up as we enjoy face to face meetings once more.

Topics for today’s blog are:

– AI-Giarism – or the future of creativity and content generation
– Project planning reminders – remember you have less control than you believe
– Mars or the sock drawer
– Students, employees and patients of the future

AI-Giarism – or the Future of Creativity and Content Generation

Like many others I recently tested ChatGPT. A friend is an IT engineer and, when I mentioned, that ChatGPT was being used by students to write papers, she said, confidently “Oh the plagiarism software will pick that up”. As ChatGPT writes bespoke responses based on various data sources across the web, and presumably the responses provided are not verbatim sentence copies, I wondered how this might work. And, I was right, it seems, using AI to write your homework, may not be plagiarism, but it would certainly constitute cheating, at least based on our current understanding of cheating.

An article in the Guardian recently addressed this topic (you can read the whole article here) and quoted Scott Aaronson, a guest researcher at OpenAI, the company that designed ChatGPT. Aaronson reportedly said that OpenAI is in the process of designing “a system for countering cheating, by statistically watermarking the outputs”. The system would be based on pattern recognition, giving the AI outputs a unique linguistic signature, which wouldn’t be readily apparent to the casual reader, but would be identifiable as machine-generated text if someone were looking for it.

The challenge here is, that it’s simply not practical for every teacher to run tests on every text that is submitted. But perhaps, that isn’t necessary. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before students have to submit proof of original work, by submitting an anti-plagiarism software scan, along with a copy of their homework? When I suggested this to a friend, he said “We used to do maths in our heads, now we use a calculator. Perhaps in the future all text will be written by AI and there is no value in teaching people how to write anymore?”. Language is how we express ourselves, however, the genie is out of the bottle, and it will influence how we write and work in the future.

In the past when I wrote radiology reports as a student, we had standard texts saved, for standard results, any normal result report had the identical text. We would type in the name of the patient; age etc. and then select the standard text for a male or female scan result and insert that into the report. This was in 1994, no AI, but standardised, signed off by a human, but that was it. Looked at in this light, the use of AI generated text for standard situations seems much less a huge leap of progress than a natural improvement of an old process.

Perhaps in the future standard texts will be written by AI, for example the introduction section to scientific papers, the materials and methods section, the introduction section etc. and the results and interpretation section will be written by humans. This could work for industry generated standard introduction texts too, enabling humans to put more focus on the creative aspects of the work at hand.

What are your thoughts, does the idea excite, or frighten you?

Key takeaway: As AI generated content becomes standard practice we will redefine what original work and what original thinking are.

Project Planning Reminders – Remember you have less Control than you Believe

It’s unusual for me to take a proper holiday. But last Christmas, after a challenging 2022, I decided to take time off. I was really looking forward to spending time with family and to taking care of tasks around the house. However, in keeping with the rest of 2022, I tested positive for COVID on Christmas eve, so ended up spending the holiday by myself.

Determined to make the best of it, I put up a Christmas tree, and decorated my house with flowers, so that I would at least spend my time alone in festive surroundings. Friends brought me soup. I felt taken care of. It was, overall, not a bad Christmas. Some thoughts as you plan projects for 2023.

  1. Plan for the foreseen: Remember not each month is created equal. Be sure to take holidays into account when planning your projects. Especially if you are located in the US working globally. It is always good to check with your colleagues in other locations when their summer holidays are, and how long they typically take.
  2. Plan for the unforeseen: illness, reorganisations, people leaving the organisation. You don’t know when it will happen, but you do know that it will.
  3. Move fast: Plan well and move fast. Be realistic with your budget, project planning and sign-off but do it as speedily as possible. Often teams spend a long time planning, to discover, that when they are ready to move on a project, budgets have been frozen.
  4. Resist the urge to please at any cost: Projects often address issues in organisations that have existed for a long time. When the issue is finally deemed pertinent to be addressed, senior leaders frequently want immediate solutions. Resist the urge to promise a fast resolution.

Key takeaways: a) You cannot control the future, but you can learn from the past: prevent the preventable and put contingency plans in place for everything else b) When things don’t go to plan, it’s best to resign yourself to a new situation and to invest your energy in putting new plans in place, rather than fighting the change c) aim for sustainable implementation rather than speed.

Mars or the Sock Drawer

In the weekend edition of the NZZ newspaper there was an interview with architect Vera Mulyani, the founder of Mars City Design, which creates architectural blueprints for sustainable cities on Mars (source IBB online). I skimmed the article, but what stayed with me was the intimation, that by building on Mars, we would be solving problems we have had for generations. This is an expression of a universal phenomenon: when there is a critical problem that needs solving, we tend to dream of alternatives, or focus on other tasks.

A classic example might be if you really need to do your tax return, but instead you decide to tidy your sock drawer. Pollution won’t be solved by us moving to Mars, that’s an avoidance strategy.

Your tax return won’t be filled out by you tidying your sock drawer. At least it never worked for me. I mention this because the behaviour is universal. And because a friend once said “we keep implementing new solutions, new projects, new things, but we never seem to be able to let the old ones go, so we are all overworked”. In the words of another friend “it’s all run, run, run, we rarely take time to stop and think about where we are running to”.

So, this year, as you consider your activities, perhaps ask yourself the questions:

  • “Are there activities that we should stop doing?”
  • “Are there activities that we should start doing?”
  • “Are any of our activities “sock drawer activities” i.e., they look important, they make us feel good, but ultimately we use them to avoid doing the things that will matter.
  • “Are there activities we are not doing, because we don’t know how to start, because they seem hard to do, because we feel fearful for some reason?”

Key takeaway: Identifying your “sock drawer activities” may help you identify the actions that need taking, that you are avoiding.

Students, Employees and Patients of the Future

When I was a teenager the library stocked books in various sections. Fantasy, cooking, young adult etc. Films were, as they still are, rated by suitability for age groups and the real world was split into adult, teenage and child adapted reading, activities and interests.

The internet has changed all that. On the weekend I was having a conversation about Codeine and Morphine with a teenager. The conversation started out with the statement “Codeine is metabolised to morphine.” It’s a long time since I took pharmacology and as I cast around in my memory for data on this specific topic, I was frustrated, but unsurprised, when I came up short. Then in quick succession came questions on the addiction potential, mode of action and uses of codeine versus morphine. When, I challenged the statement “all drugs are addictive if abused” with the question, whether there are no products that result in immediate addiction upon first exposure, I received the response “Yes, methamphetamine”. This was on Saturday evening while we were playing cards.

It brought home to me, again, that all knowledge is now available. That data we couldn’t readily get access to when I was at school is now freely available. Topics are no longer restricted and pre-sorted into gender-specific, age-specific or other categories. The only thing that limits access to knowledge is a person’s interests and of course their ability to identify accurate data sources.

Key takeaway: how people process, think, access information and combine data has changed.

I hope my blog provides you with some useful insights and, as ever, I look forward to hearing your thoughts. And if you have a challenging project or would like to discuss coaching to help you achieve that next level, please reach out for an informal chat.

Wishing you all the very best for 2023!

Isabelle C. Widmer

Photo by Isabelle C. Widmer. London, December 2022