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HBR IdeaCast

How Generative AI Changes Productivity

Thu May 04 2023

The cost of information dissemination and the implications of generative AI

00:02 - 10:43

  • The cost of information dissemination went to zero with the invention of the web browser.
  • Generative AI has profound implications for us, as it will massively decline the cost of cognition and creativity.
  • Generative AI is taking a corpus of text and making predictions based on all human text available in the world.
  • Generative AI is basic predicting what the next pixel should be.
  • Generative AI systems predict the next word or pixel based on a corpus of text or images.
  • OpenAI's big innovation was to bring in human feedback through reinforcement learning.
  • The combination of data, compute, and prediction has given us powerful generative AI systems.

Applications of generative AI in various fields

05:37 - 26:14

  • These systems can pass medical boards, bar exams, and job applications.
  • Machines with humans will replace humans without machines.
  • The copilot metaphor is useful for understanding the relationship between humans and AI.
  • AI can make our jobs easier and help us do what we do better.
  • AI technology makes everyone as good as the AI, bringing up the quality level.
  • Training systems and curriculum need to change with the introduction of AI technology.
  • Chat GPT and Bing Abing's are examples of AI technology that can be used for writing assistance.
  • Hallucination is a common issue with generative models like Chat GPT.
  • Autopilot should not be relied on when using AI technology.
  • Edge cases can cause performance drops even with good AI, so attention must be paid to what's going on.
  • Accountants, lawyers, consultants, and other knowledge workers can benefit from using AI technology.
  • Generative AI can be used by accountants, lawyers, consultants and other knowledge workers to analyze data and do analysis conversationally.
  • Legal assistants can use generative AI to access all legal documents in the world instantly and customize it to their particular circumstance.
  • Individual worker productivity is phenomenal with generative AI.
  • Generative AI is already being used for mundane tasks like responding to emails, doing spreadsheet analysis, doing textual analysis, doing summaries and creating beautiful summaries of Zoom calls.
  • Generative AI can help improve low-end customer service calls through augmentation scenario or automation scenario where the first level triage is happening through generative AI.
  • Generative AI can streamline administrative tasks, scheduling and task management.
  • HR leaders can use generative AI to identify skills gaps and suggest new training.
  • Marketing has been transformed by generative AI with personalized pitches and press releases.
  • Generative AI can increase efficiency and productivity in factories through quality control and process automation.

The importance of digitization and embracing generative AI

25:44 - 31:32

  • Digitization is imperative for companies to benefit from generative AI.
  • Digitization imperative increases productivity in factories.
  • Building AI factory and data pipelines is necessary for benefiting from AI.
  • Generative AI can improve firm productivity by rethinking processes and business models.
  • Companies must embrace generative AI at the IT architecture and organizational level.
  • Individuals can use generative AI to boost productivity, but the promise is really scale.
  • The big learning mandate here is for boards, C-suite, and the rest of the cream.

Enabling workers and reimagining work with generative AI

31:10 - 37:02

  • The question is what will accountants do with the productivity boost?
  • Companies should not just fire accountants but enable them to do higher level work.
  • When ATMs were introduced, bank tellers became financial advisors.
  • Leaders need to think about enabling their teams rather than just cutting costs.
  • Removing boundaries on human capability could lead to a purpose-driven approach to work.
  • Organizational leaders should immerse themselves in the tools and start reimagining work in their functions and organizations.
  • There will be transition and upheaval, but some leaders will focus on growth while others focus on efficiency.
  • Hundreds of companies are trying to improve performance through AI.

Other insights on generative AI

36:47 - 39:09

  • There are hundreds of companies trying to improve AI performance.
  • Abundance thinking is encouraged instead of efficiency thinking.
  • Kareem Lakhani, a professor at Harvard Business School, co-wrote the book 'Competing in the Age of AI'.
  • Next time on HBR ideacast feed, Adi Ignatius talks about how generative AI changes creativity.
  • 'How Generative AI Changes Everything' is a special series of the HBR ideacast.