The 12 Laws of AI – Law 1: AI is the Tool, Not the Craftsman
September 20, 2023
The following is the first part in our blog series “The 12 Laws of AI.” The series is a set of practical and philosophical guidelines for DMOs to work from as they explore the opportunities and challenges of artificial intelligence (AI).
In the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution transformed society, primarily due to advances in the textile industry and water power. This significant shift was the first in a series of innovation “waves,” a concept described by Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev in the 1920s. Subsequent innovation waves that included steam power, aviation, and the internet, have had increasingly dramatic impacts on our world. We are currently in the midst of the “6th Wave,” fueled largely in part by artificial intelligence (AI), and it promises to be the steepest wave yet.
These innovation waves don’t just introduce new technologies — they also reshape industries, consumer behaviors, and everyday life. The mechanization of agriculture, for instance, led to mass migration to cities. Digital technologies like computers and the internet have revolutionized multiple sectors, including retail and marketing. They’ve also given rise to new job roles that our ancestors couldn’t have envisioned (it would be hard indeed to describe what a social media manager does to someone living in the 1950’s).
Contrary to popular belief, AI is not a new concept. The term was first coined in 1956 by John McCarthy in a Dartmouth workshop focused on recreating human intelligence in machines. The 1960s saw the first natural language processing system, ELIZA, which kicked off decades of AI development that were ultimately stymied by a lack of computing power, data storage and rapid communication. In recent years technological advancements in those three areas have propelled AI innovation to new heights, manifesting in familiar technologies including Siri, Alexa, and targeted advertisements. ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and MidJourney are the next generation of AI tools which utilize natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) systems. Advancements in machine learning, cloud-based computing, algorithm development, and more have made this new generation of AI not only possible — but most importantly, affordable to use for any organization.
AI is a Prediction Machine
While AI can seem complex (and it is!), it essentially serves as an advanced “prediction machine.” When you ask ChatGPT for a summary of World War II, it predicts what information you’re seeking based on your input — in this case, historical information on the conflict. This simplified view holds true for many AI systems, including older technologies like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri — both use the data you give them “Hey Siri, what’s the capital of California?” with the answer it thinks you want and understands to be correct, “The capital of California is Sacramento.” This same principle applies to more complex AI tasks, like asking ChatGPT to run an analysis of data related to visitor surveys or writing a strategic marketing plan based on the principles outlined in Seth Godin’s famous line of books on marketing. Certainly there’s more going on under the proverbial hood here, but it helps to put AI tools into perspective when you remember that they all require a combination of “learned” data and user input to create the “magic” of instant term papers, recommendation letters, and data analysis befitting a college education in statistics. It’s important to remember this: AI isn’t really intelligent, certainly not self aware, nor plotting to take over the world. Yet. (Kidding, Kidding)
The 12 Laws of AI
The 12 Laws of AI were created with the intent to help you de-mystify artificial intelligence, understand its challenges and opportunities and, most importantly, how to put it to work for you and your organization, regardless of your budget or financial resources. Indeed, AI tools like ChatGPT, Bard, and MindJourney have the greatest potential to transform the operations of smaller organizations by enabling capabilities that have been out of reach until now. Content creation, data analysis, and taking over mundane tasks (writing a job description, yuck!) will enable organizations of all sizes to realize a greater potential for expanding their role in their communities, taking on more complex challenges and ensuring greater returns on public investment. The Laws are organized as both a practical and philosophical guide to this exciting new frontier. Each Law is designed to be your “jumping off point” for the most critical topics in the subject of AI. We’ll explore each in turn, and I encourage you to dive deeper into the topics introduced by each law. With that…let’s get started!
Law 1: AI is the Tool, Not the Craftsman
The woodcarver yields the chisel, not the other way around; there is no replacement for the human touch in the act of creation. Let AI assist, but not overshadow you; let it refine your creation, enhancing quality and efficiency alike.
Imagine a master woodcarver at work. Each stroke of the chisel, each contour shaped, and each texture smoothed represents years of experience, instinct, and human creativity. The chisel is indispensable to the process, but it is still just a tool. The woodcarver wields the chisel; the chisel does not direct the woodcarver.
Similarly, new AI tools can refine your content marketing efforts, making them more efficient and effective. But, it can’t replace the human understanding of culture, emotion, and instinctual reactions to different stimuli that must be considered for content to be truly effective, as just one example. Anyone that has asked ChatGPT to write a short story will soon come to understand that AI, though powerful, is far from replacing humans in the act of creation (which, far from being relegated to marketing or the art world, encompasses nearly everything around us—invention, mathematics, engineering, product development, entertainment, and more). However, just as a chisel enables a skilled woodcarver to create beautiful works of form and function, AI enables you to become “superhuman” — powering through the mundane, and enhancing how you handle the processes of building a stronger, more successful destination. We’ll talk about more of these abilities in later Laws, but suffice it to say: AI isn’t here to take your job, but rather, to enable you and your organization to be more efficient and effective at doing it. This is critically important to understand — and communicate to your team, board, and local stakeholders who are likely skeptical (and maybe even scared) in the early days of this latest innovation wave.
In our next blog in the series, we’ll explore some of the challenges and pitfalls of AI that you’ll want to be aware of before taking advantage of the incredible potential of these powerful tools.
other blogs in this series:
Law 2: Humble Beginnings and Law 3: Transparency
Law 4: The Imperfect Mirror
Law 5: The Law of Liberated Potential and Law 6: The Law of Collective Empowerment
Law 7: The Law of the Artful Inquiry
Law 8: The Law of Constructive Command
Note: This collection of “laws” on AI incorporate insights from my research and writing on the topic. To make it as memorable as I could — and to demonstrate one of the many powerful utilities these tools offer — I asked ChatGPT 4.0 to style my writing in the voice of Robert Greene, author of the best-selling book “The 48 Laws of Power.” I hope you will agree that each of the Laws is a bit more memorable with this distinct style being employed. It’s crucial that we embrace these new tools and transparently acknowledge how they improve our critical thinking and public sharing of ideas.