Growing up, I was a big fan of Star Trek, and older science fiction shows. I loved the glimpse into what the future could look like, as the writers of those shows imagined it. Some things were ahead of their time, and some seem quaint in retrospect.
In classic Star Trek, for example, Captain Kirk and friends could instantly communicate with anyone, but they used communicators, which were much bigger and bulkier than our cell phones today. They could travel across the universe, but consoles on the Enterprise had big, old-fashioned buttons and lights. They had a computer that had the answers to almost any questions – if they inserted the right “tape.”
When we try to imagine the future of our work, we are inevitably constrained by what we know of the present. The introduction of Google’s search engine didn’t just make it easier to find websites; it made it possible to answer questions and discover new knowledge. The smartphone didn’t just let us browse the internet from our phones; it opened the door for new platforms like Venmo, Uber, Instagram, and Words With Friends.
The difference between what we expect and what will be has never been more apparent than it is today. New AI tools like ChatGPT, Claude, Stable Diffusion, and Microsoft CoPilot shatter our expectations of what technology can do for us.
Need to research a new topic? ChatGPT can write it up for you. Want to find the best LMS for a small business? Ask Microsoft Bing’s chat tool, powered by ChatGPT. Need to create exam questions based on an existing handbook? Claude can do it for you in seconds. Are you ready to turn your research notes into a PowerPoint slide deck? Microsoft CoPilot promises to have your first draft ready almost instantly. Need a specific illustration? Ask Stable Diffusion to create it for you.
These are early days for Generative AI solutions, ChatGPT is available now but has had several updates since its November launch. It now includes GPT4 for paid “Plus” users, an exponential improvement over the original ChatGPT with GPT 3.5. Claude is only available as a preview for select users, and Microsoft CoPilot is also in a very limited preview.
With what we know, it’s easy to see some of what the future looks like for Learning & Development professionals. Generative AI tools can easily:
- Research non-propriety topics, e.g., “What are the most common causes of workplace stress?”
- Create draft outlines and objectives for training content, e.g., “Write an outline for a one-hour conflict management workshop.”
- Write scripts for video presenters, e.g., “Write a script for two presenters in a video, in which the presenters take turns explaining the difference between capital gains and ordinary income.”
- Translate materials, e.g., “The lesson plan below is for an English language course on business communication. Please rewrite the lesson plan appropriately for a Spanish-speaking, Latin American audience.”
- Write exam questions, e.g., “Write five multiple choice questions, with four answer options for each, based on the content of the following document.”
- Create images, e.g., “Draw a business illustration of two unicorns fighting in a conference room.
The results may not be exactly what you want. They’ll need tweaking, additions, and some reworking. But it’s easy to see these AI-generated results as being at least a colossal timesaver in creating first drafts.
While there are certainly ethical and regulatory concerns about this new wave of AI tools, the thing about technological advancements is that they never go backward. We’ve all seen what happens to companies that fail to recognize the changes around them. Think Blockbuster Video, Kodak Film, or Nokia phones.
It’s essential, even critical, for us as Learning & Development professionals to know these new tools and look for ways to include them in our work processes appropriately.
As with any new and disruptive technology, there is often a desire to ignore it because change is more complicated than keeping the status quo, and there’s often some fear that the technology may make our jobs obsolete. But it’s not the technology that makes jobs obsolete – it’s failing to adapt to the new reality these technologies bring.
One thing is sure, as these AI tools permeate across many different roles and industries and disrupt the way millions of people do their work today, all of those workers will need training to help them get work done effectively in this new future around us. For those of us in Learning & Development, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to help them manage that change! We need to get busy learning these tools ourselves to get it done!