The Artificial Intelligence genie is out of the box

Just how fast has Artificial Intelligence penetrated the public consciousness?

One of the many strands of my work is part time lecturing as an adjunct professor. In the space of just two years, the subject of AI has leapt from the pages of text books into the daily life of students. It’s changed what I teach, how I teach it, and how students are assessed. Let’s have a look at the timeline of rapidly changing perception.

In September 2021, as the world started to assume some semblance of reality post-Covid, I was asked to pass on my knowledge of emerging technologies to postgraduate students at Teesside University. I started teaching Digital Transformation and a new Blockchain and Cryptocurrency module in the School of Computing. I developed the first Contemporary Financial Technologies module for the International Business School. I supervised dissertations that ventured into the application of AI, blockchain and big data in accounting and finance. Interest in how emerging tech will change different industry sectors and professions was already gathering pace.

At that time, just two years ago, discussion of Artificial Intelligence largely addressed the distinctions between deep learning and machine learning, the importance of depth of data and training, and the places where AI was hiding in plain sight.

By April of 2022, GPT3 was making waves and DALL-E2 was launched. The questions students asked began to change. Instead of an abstract concept that explained Netflix recommendations and predictive text, there were tools that allowed them to ask complex questions and get a reasonable answer, or to parse prompts that produced half-decent generative art.

Another six months passed. The students who started their courses in September 2022 still saw AI as something of an abstract concept, but one with potential to transform business and lives in the future. However, as they came to the end of the semester, ChatGPT arrived. Within weeks everyone in teaching was working overtime to make sure that students didn’t fall into the trap of getting it to write their essays, and spotting any who did. The genie was well and truly out of the box.

A new awareness of AI

This is far from a bad thing. As a new semester begins, it’s clear that there is huge interest in AI, but also an understanding that a well-designed Large Language Model is not the be all and end all. ChatGPT has thrown an established technology under the spotlight and opened up discussion. While six months ago there was panic about ethics in study, now students are more interested in the ethics of AI itself and the collection and management of the data from which it learns.

It is already a recognised and valuable tool in business processes from accounting and fintech to marketing and HR. Different aspects of AI deliver improved customer experience, faster response to change, and deeper insights from data that support business decision making and growth. It’s an exciting time to be involved in Artificial Intelligence, and watching my cohort of 200 Masters students from across the globe come to grips with its potential is a sign of things to come.

How could your business take advantage of this newly accessible technology? Over the course of the next few blogs, we’ll take a look at what’s happening now, what’s over the horizon, and where the very real opportunities lie. AI isn’t going to do your homework, but it may change your life faster than you expect.