60 Minutes: A New Low

I watched a segment of 60 Minutes about generative AI on YouTube last night. It was nonsense. In the opening of the piece, Lesley Stahl (the on-camera talent) admits that she is scared of the technology. Then, for the rest of this (highly one-sided) view of generative AI, she does everything she can to push the idea that everyone should be as scared and as ignorant as she is. It was some of the worst reporting – if you can even call it that – I’ve ever seen. When questioned by Stahl, Brad Smith (President of Microsoft) didn’t do himself or the technology any favors. Of course, he had no say in the few snippets the 60 Minutes producers chose to represent him.

What really pisses me off is that – without fail – when 60 Minutes (still one of the highest-rated news programs on television) does a piece on technology, it is always skewed to scare the hell out of stupid people and to sow doubt in the minds of people who think. They never present both sides of a tech story… it’s maddening!

Conversational AI is not a one-size fits all solution. It may never be. If you create inputs with the goal of getting weird outputs, you will be successful, but that is not its intended use. It’s a narrow-focused, specialized tool that is great at what it is great at: summarizing text, brainstorming, writing formatted copy, automating workflow and process, and (most importantly) increasing productivity.

Barak Turovsky, former product lead at Google AI, has a nice framework for evaluating whether or not ChatGPT (or any AI) is appropriate for your task. Ask yourself: 1) Is the task high or low stakes? 2) Does the task require high accuracy or high fluency? If your task is low stakes, high fluency (i.e. writing a birthday poem), conversational AI is likely a good fit for the task. If your task requires high stakes and high accuracy (i.e. making a business investment), conversational AI is most likely a bad fit for the task. There are thousands of tasks that fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Thousands! You need situational awareness and subject matter expertise to get the most out of this (or any) technology.

My relationship with 60 Minutes is over. (The definition of insanity, etc.) That said, please take the time to learn about generative AI and its capabilities. We have free resources available, but this is not a content marketing piece. Technology is just a fancy word for “tool,” and that’s what all of this is about: new tools. Please ignore the fear mongers and learn about these new tools from people who will teach you to respect and use them well.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com.



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