Will Artificial Intelligence replace humans? Is Chat GPT going to take over? Should we just give up and quit and let the computers do it all?!?!?!!?!
These questions (or versions of them, at least) have been in our collective consciousness ever since the invention of computers. Or at least the invention of science fiction. Or maybe even before that. I’m not sure what early homo sapiens were worried about.
Now, this “problem” is more tangible than ever with the rise of conversational AI tools like Chat GPT.
In this article, I’m going to cover:
- What is AI?
- What are the different applications of AI we should be thinking about as community builders?
- What tasks can we “outsource” to our AI friends?
- Will AI replace us?!?! (No)
As usual, these are all hot takes by yours truly, and everything in here is open to discussion.
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What is AI?
IBM has a really fancy article on what AI is.
It’s pretty fascinating, especially since we throw around the terms AI and ML whenever the heck we feel like it, and many of us have no idea what we’re actually talking about. It reminds me of when I learned, during my statistics major in college, that machine learning could even refer to basically a glorified linear regression model.
I’ve prowled the internet for a definition of AI that I actually like, and here’s the simplest one that I like. AI refers to machines that think.
You’ve heard of the Turing Test and all the other ways that AI can be thought of as “human” or not, but here, in this article, I am completely unconcerned with whether or not AI is “human”.
I love “Machines that think” because lots of organisms in the world think. They don’t think like humans. We’re not constantly scared of them. In fact, humans collaborate (and domesticate, lol) other thinking friends, theoretically with the goal of building a better world.*
*There’s a WHOLE can of worms I’m not opening right now about colonization and AI ethics. It’s super duper important, but it’s outside the scope of our article. I highly recommend following researchers like Drs. Timnit Gebru & Safiya Noble and seeking out articles, books, and podcasts on the ethics of AI.
AI applications for communities
Here are some applications/use cases of AI we should be aware of. Most of this falls under the realm of conversational AI (which you probably know as a term, since Chat GPT is poppin off).
Briefly, conversational AI is a form of AI that users can talk to, like chat bots and some of the interfaces mentioned below:
- Speech recognition and natural language processing (NLP)
- Virtual agents and assistants
- Recommendation engines
- Event management
With these applications in mind, let’s get into some specific tasks we can ask our AI friends to do for us!
What AI and Chat GPT can help you with
I have a simple framework to think through when AI can help me and when it can’t: will using AI for this task help me spend more of my time and energy serving the people in my community? It’s that simple! At least for now, lol.
- Figuring out your process optimization (this is the BEST use case in my opinion) One of my favorite requests of Chat GPT was asking it to help me write up some Zapier automations. Most community builders have some level of familiarity with no-code, especially those of us who are not working for larger communities. But even in a no-code world, optimizing your stuff requires brain energy you’d rather save for the humans in your community. Make a list of all the processes you’ve been thinking of optimizing, whether it’s scheduling marketing campaigns, getting your Zaps in order, tweaking some low-code stuff on your website, shrinking images, ensuring accessibility, etc. Let the robots be in charge of this one!
- (Some) customer service I believe we should be very transparent about when an AI is AI-ing and not have it impersonate us as humans. There are many AI chatbots on the market who can help you with customer service and basic member outreach. You could even ask Chat GPT for some suggestions! This use case works especially if you run a product-driven community that gets similar requests over and over again. It is likely not the best use of your time (or your team’s time) to troubleshoot something a literal computer could do!
- Better search results to serve you and your members Neeva has launched a private, ad-free search experience that uses AI for more curated results. If you run a community that relies on high-quality information (like my company, Soapbox Project — we make content and courses about climate justice), this could be a good fit for you. We all know the pains of parsing Google and sorting through advertisers and trying to figure out if our results are actually GOOD or if they’re just well optimized. AI-powered search could save you a buttload of time and help you deliver an incredible community experience.
- Writing a *baseline* for website, email, and hiring copy Of course, you can ask Chat GPT to write stuff for you. Copy AI also has rave reviews. I’ve never used it, but I hear it’s an incredible way to write blog posts, sales emails, website copy, and more. I’ve followed their journey pretty much since the beginning and it looks incredible. I currently use Notion’s AI, which is in alpha at the time of this blog post. My whole life is basically on Notion, so I figured I should test it out. It’s pretty decent — it’s good for helping me with a content baseline, but I definitely like to put my own human touch on this. I also used Chat GPT to come up with a job description for hiring a content assistant. If you are really clear with what you’re asking, it gives you a helpful head start. Maybe you think of Chat GPT as your content intern that requires a lot of oversight and direction. I do NOT think AI will take over humans when it comes to writing copy*. I know I may be proven wrong in the years that come, but oh well, I said what I said!! For now, we are incredibly witty creative people with lots to share with the world. AI is a great starting point, but with copywriting and content creation, I would make sure that humans are thoroughly vetting and/or editing the outcomes. *If you’re running a generic Instagram account and need captions for stuff that doesn’t really matter, like inspirational quotes etc., that’s the best use case I can think of where AI can truly take over.
- Event planning and programming Again, I see AI as a helper in this and not a replacement for humans. Gwyn from Breakthrough Facilitation wrote a great article on AI for event facilitation, covering tools like StreamAlive and Gatheround. Event copy is where AI can shine here (see above), and that can take a lot of work out of your process.
- Member insights via sentiment analysis We all know that understanding our users and members is the name of the game. AI is not here to replace our invaluable 1:1s with members, but why not develop a more frequent pulse on how things are going? I don’t currently run a sentiment analysis process, so… I asked Chat GPT for recs. Here’s a direct quote of what it told me, and I’ve added in the URLs.
- MonkeyLearn: A cloud-based platform with a simple interface and pre-trained models for sentiment analysis.
- Sentiment140: A simple and easy to use online tool for sentiment analysis.
- OpenAI GPT-3: OpenAI's GPT-3 is one of the most advanced NLP models available, offering a wide range of capabilities including sentiment analysis. However, it is important to note that the cost of using OpenAI GPT-3 may not be suitable for all beginners.
- Indico: A cloud-based platform offering various NLP models including sentiment analysis, with a free tier and flexible pricing.
These tools are a good starting point for beginner users looking to try out sentiment analysis, but it is important to evaluate their accuracy and features to determine if they meet your specific needs. These look good and all, but I noticed that Chat GPT didn’t include my #1 pick for member insights: Common Room. It might be because they’re a newer company? Check them out!
As an earlier-stage community builder focused on social and environmental justice, I’m always going to look for ways to center humans in the work we do. If I can think of conversational AI as a partner instead of an adversary, I’m all in, but it’s important to keep critically thinking about the tech choices we’re making.
The verdict: will AI replace humans?
You already know I’m a hard no on this. But that’s largely because I don’t believe in the question itself. I think it’s an unnecessary scare tactic that slows people down from getting excited about new technology and asking questions that do matter. Here are some questions I would ask instead:
- How can AI help and harm humans?
- Who is in charge of programming the AI tools we’re using? How does that over-represent certain types of thinking and under-represent others?
- If I use AI for [use case], who will benefit? Who will be harmed? What are the trade-offs?
- Will AI increase or decrease my critical thinking as I set out to solve this problem?
- Will AI be prohibitively expensive to some groups of people? How does that effect equal opportunities for growth?
For better or for worse, this a community building blog and not a tech ethics hub, but we can’t talk about community without a strong layer of critical thinking. This will be more important than ever as we choose which tools to use.
Remember, we’re here to serve humans. If Chat GPT and other AI tools will help us deliver on our vision and values, great. However, it’s our responsibility as community facilitators, creators, and builders to be proactive about avoiding harm.
Good luck on your computer journey and let me know what issues you anticipate — let’s get ahead of it! Yay robots and yay humans!!
My brilliant friend Neelam Patel asked Chat GPT, “Can you write a poem about the experience of a South Asian bride whose family wants to control the wedding during wedding planning?” (due to my rants about wedding planning).
Read it and weep
The South Asian Bride by Neelam Patel & Chat GPT
I am the South Asian bride, with a heart full of dreams, Of a wedding that's filled with love, and memories that gleam. But as I start to plan, I realize the weight, Of the expectations that come with my culture and fate.
My family wants to control, every aspect of the day, From the dress that I wear, to the food that we'll lay. They say it's for tradition, for our heritage to hold, But I can't help but feel, my voice and choices are sold.
I want to pick the flowers, that adorn my hair, I want to choose the music, that will fill the air. I want to walk down the aisle, to my love's embrace, But it seems like my family, wants to dictate the pace.
I'm torn between my love, and my loyalty to kin, Between the wedding of my dreams, and the expectations within. I try to speak up, but my words fall on deaf ears, Leaving me with a feeling of sadness, frustration, and tears.
But then I remember, that this day is mine, A celebration of love, with my partner and I combined. And so, I take a stand, and make my voice heard, For I won't let my family, control the most important day of my world.
And as I walk down the aisle, in my dress of choice, With my partner by my side, and my heart full of joy, I know that I've made the right decision, for me and my love, For this wedding is about us, and the memories that we'll be making above.