When we set out to write ‘Engines of Engagement: a curious book about Generative AI’, one of the first things we did was to capture a series of book overviews that represented the book we would NOT be writing.

So this is NOT a book about prompt engineering. It’s NOT a book that is ‘for’ or ‘against’ Generative AI, and it’s NOT a book with easy answers and bullet point check lists, or a ‘Handy How To’ guide.

Instead, we have tried to inform the stage of debate, and to do so by expanding ideas in different directions. Rather than providing ‘one lens’ through which to view the topics, we try to provide several different ones: so when considering ‘bias’ we look at the foundational technology, the data it consumers, our social attitudes, the risks that we understand, and how the systems are in motion, as well as nascent legislative efforts. We do not draw a conclusion, but rather lay out the landscape. And we try to avoid easy answers.

There are themes that recur: the need to fracture our certainty, and to listen beyond the noise generated by the crowd. We have a strong message that this is a time to diversify your sources, and to bring healthy scepticism to play, but also to be in motion.

Not sat in our armchairs, but walking the landscape.

Early on in the book we talk about frameworks of change: that which happens within known systems, and that which fractures the system itself. Much thinking gets stuck in this first space. We think that Generative AI will be a tool of optimisation (doing what we already do, but better, cheaper, faster), but this is to miss the true disruption. Much of what Generative AI will do will break our legacy structures understanding and organisation. Some of it for the better, but some for the worse. And it may not be clear at the time what we are gaining, or losing.

The chances are that the true impacts of Generative AI – both the liberating possibilities and toxic fallout – are will play out for some time to come. There is a world of ideas, but also a world of markets and finance – existing suppliers and Organisations are seeking quick wins, whilst individuals and bold Organisations are rapidly prototyping a whole host of new ideas. If you are wise, you are learning to cheat well.

Probably more than anything what we need right now is a good reflective surface, to catch ourselves out when we say things that are comfortable, familiar, but almost certainty no longer true. Time and again, when i participate in forums and talks, people demonstrate a great understanding of the potential, and then suddenly ground themselves with some blinding truth that is so fractured they cannot see it. Like the person who told me that translation will ‘always need a human’, or that ‘AI will never replace a learning function’. Certainty is comfortable, like camping on an ice floe. It’s all good till it ain’t.

‘Engines of Engagement: a curious book about Generative AI’ will be published this Thursday. You can find full details here.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.


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