Putting the Person in Personalized AI

February 14, 2024
By Olivia DuCharme

Ever wish you had a wizard in your pocket? A Martha Stewart to rescue your houseplants? A Sybill Trelawney to probe your birth chart? A Cyrano to sprinkle you with charm before a first date? Enter Planty, Astrology Birth Chart GPT, and Rizz GPT — just a glimpse into the three million custom versions of ChatGPT available on the GPT Store. Why so many? Creating your own GPT is as easy as typing one sentence. And it’s relatively low cost compared to OpenAI’s enterprise and bespoke offerings.

Our ability to create — and monetize — GPTs signals a shift in our relationship with generative AI. Previously, our access to and experience with these tools were determined by organizations with the money, technology, and in-house talent to do so. Now, OpenAI has offered us a seat at the table, inviting us to play a part in shaping the direction of generative AI to benefit our needs, both personal and professional. This changing dynamic has the potential to reshape our identities from consumers to prosumers — and with that slight name change comes a different set of responsibilities.

Let’s put on our etymology-nerd hats for a second. The word consumer comes from a combination of the Latin verb sumere, meaning “to take,” and the prefix con, which means “thoroughly.” Putting those building blocks together reveals that to consume something means to use it up, full-stop. Accordingly, the questions consumers ask about AI are reactive: Will it take our jobs? Will it threaten our privacy? Will it violate our ethics? By contrast, the prefix pro means “forward,” implying movement or advancement. A prosumer, then, is someone who anticipates a need and creates something to fulfill it. Prosumers are agents who ask proactive questions: Are we using these tools to meet a need or achieve a goal? Are we using them just because we can? Or worse, just to say we did?

The chatbots we create can answer these questions, in part. Despite the charm of a horoscope chatbot, generative AI isn’t mind-reading, nor is it fine-tuned to mine nuance and detangle subtleties. It can’t deduce what our organizations need or how we can stand out from a one-sentence prompt. To prosume a tool of substance, we need to be able to define who we are, where we want to be, and what we need to get there — and then put that into precise words. This mindset, one that strikes a balance between creativity and strategic utility, allows us to anticipate, ideate, excel. Without it, we risk accumulating chatbots like faddish kitchen gadgets, taking up space in an already crowded cabinet.

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