Editor's note: Joe Rydholm can be reached at email@example.com.
Is it too early to be bored with ChatGPT? I realize this issue’s cover story is about ChatGPT and I’m the one who decided to put it there, so I’m just adding to the mania. And maybe it’s just a reflection of the speed and totality with which trends/fads/hot new things spread these days. Or the fact that generative AI has the potential to impact all aspects of our lives.
But it all just seems a bit...much.
True, after reading David Boyle and Richard Bowman’s piece in this issue, it’s hard not to be excited, especially if, as they outline, the technology frees researchers from drudgery and lets them focus on adding value by bringing insight and context to ChatGPT’s output.
And if the technology is used properly (and its errors corrected, etc.), I don’t see a problem with it, but I’ve found some of the commentary on LinkedIn and elsewhere about what ChatGPT means for thought leadership to be laughably wrongheaded. Generating thought leadership will be a breeze, this thinking goes, because you’ll be able to harvest all the best writing on whatever topic you want, basically at the push of a button! Yeah, I guess. But so will everybody else with the same goal!
The whole point of thought leadership – good, worthwhile thought leadership, anyway – is that its creators bring something new or insightful or valuable to the process and help you see a problem or a topic in a different light. Rely on ChatGPT for generating your thought leadership and all you’ll get is a potentially error-filled, unoriginal rehash.
Fortunately, it sounds like consumers are approaching all of this with level heads. Market research cloud company Suzy surveyed 1,000 people for its report Unveiling Consumer Perceptions of Generative AI and found that just over half (53%) were comfortable with AI in the products and services they already use. Over a third (35%) were aware of AI tools when asked about specific offerings and the top three cited were Grammarly (26%), ChatGPT (12%) and DALL-E (9%). As for what they use AI tools for, respondents cited improving work efficiency, organization and time management, encompassing tasks such as scheduling, creating documents, summarizing documents and generating reminder messages – all fairly quotidian tasks that lend themselves to some form of automation.
Some marketing research industry commenters have expressed fears similar to those voiced around the time big data was on the rise that, just as big data would make researchers irrelevant because companies now have all the data they need to make decisions (and thus why bother to pay for someone to go out and gather it, etc.), generative AI will also render insights pros moot by making report-writing something anyone can do with very little effort. As it turns out, data can’t analyze itself or make business recommendations. You actually need people for that, and not just any people but those who are trained to know what to look for. So I don’t see ChatGPT as displacing marketing researchers any time soon.
As someone who writes and edits for a living, perhaps my feelings about ChatGPT are just a form of whistling past the graveyard. I’m probably setting myself up to be a punchline when I’m eventually replaced with a generative AI editor and I know the technology will quickly evolve to be able to catch and correct (or avoid completely) the errors that currently dog ChatGPT output.
And after seeing how dangerously close the U.S. came (and may come again, depending on the next presidential election) to being overrun by blinkered, demagogic thinking, I’m under no illusions that this type of information generation has only beneficial applications and outcomes. But I’m hopeful that it will be seen and used for what it is: a time-saving tool that takes full advantage of computing technology’s ability to extract useful information from the internet’s digital morass (especially in light of Microsoft and OpenAI’s reimagining of the Bing search engine), freeing people up to do the more valuable work of adding insight, analysis and, dare I say it, a bit of humanity to the end result.