Intelligence may be artificial, but foolishness is not
Everyone and their dog is an AI expert all of a sudden, aren’t they?
And every bloody thing is AI-powered. Even the cleaning bots at the airport.
Every board, big or small, is listening to presentations on the dangers and opportunities presented by ChatGPT compiled by non-experts, consumed by non-experts and leading invariably and inevitably to the conclusion that we need to keep an eye on ‘this’ and, somehow, this exercise in futility leaves us all feeling a little bit better about God knows what, albeit none the wiser.
I mean… everyone needs a hobby, and if this is yours… knock yourself out. But if you are genuinely wondering what this means for your business… then you are not going about thinking this through the right way.
Artificial intelligence is not new.
Large language models are not new.
They just got bigger. Sure, the algos got faster. And now your auntie Mabel knows of ChatGPT so it feels like a brave new world has landed. But it hasn’t. Generative AI is barely getting started. If this is scaring you, you are in for a treat.
Regardless of how you feel about this, the thing you talk of when you describe the current state of AI is not new. And it’s not quite here yet. Not fully. This is nowhere near done gestating.
Both of those facts should be uncomfortable, by the way.
Firstly, that this field of knowledge has been developing for a long time.
Things like this don’t happen overnight. This isn’t Harry Potter, and even he had to go to school for a wee while and try a few things before he could do You Know What to You Know Who.
But more scarily, that this isn’t even close to being at its peak of maturity and completeness.
You will notice I didn’t preface the statement with the ever-prevalent ‘I don’t know who needs to hear this’, and that’s because I know exactly who needs to hear this. Every FS decision-maker – no matter whether they sit in a bank, a start-up or a scaling entity – wondering: “Will this hurt me? How can I make money from it?” And, if the answer to these two questions is no and yes respectively, “Where should I put this?”
We’ve been here before.
When we tried to work out what to do with fintech and its weird business models and unfamiliar ways of working. We did it with APIs. We did it with DLT. We are doing it with any and every new technical capability that darkens our doorstep.
First comes fear (and look… the fear to greed index is real, but still… come on).
How can this hurt me? How can I contain it? The urge to opt for comfort and security first is understandable.
But have we not learned yet, as an industry, from our attempt to ‘limit’ digital, that new tech isn’t ours to limit? Technology adoption cycles are not in our gift.
Not their reach. Not their pace. Not their impact. None of it is in our control.
We are participants with choices and options – although once the regulators step into the fray the speed of change may make us feel less like participants and more like recipients. And yet we are not passive recipients. We are participants. Active, if we choose to be. Influential. Not in full control and yet with more power than most.
Not in control, though. And we don’t like that.
But we know, love. We know.
That our fear is ours to deal with. Containing the technology won’t work.
It won’t be contained. And neither will the fear.
So, try to understand it instead.
What is it? What does it do? How does it do it?
How does it affect your business? How does it play into your current business model? How do your risk models fare against it?
Uncomfortable work, all of this. And that’s before you get to the even stickier point of risk-reward. Because our habits of old push us in all the wrong directions for this. We look for mythical creatures (centaurs and unicorns and magic beans and silver bullets). We seek net new revenue with a bow on top.
We should know better by now. And yet. And yet.
We have had to ask ourselves all these questions time and again, by the way, as new technologies came our way.
Remember I said this will keep happening? And that we need to sharpen our focus on what it is our businesses do, how and why they do it… so we can navigate the pace of change? This is what I meant.
A paradigm shift isn’t a new concept. We have been talking about them since last century… although they seem to be happening faster. I will give you that.
In a paradigm shift such as this, many things change dramatically. But not all.
The need to be crystal clear about your business purpose may be tested by the paradigm shift, but it is not a question borne by it. Just because you are not doing the thing in the hope that it goes away doesn’t mean that it will. What is changing is the context you are doing (or not doing) the thing in.
And that context is shifting rapidly and dramatically. And of course, it may change ‘the thing’. But how will you know if it does unless you are clear about ‘the thing’? Those hard yards are not optional. I keep saying it, but will you listen?
And here you are locking down your IP, banning your engineers from using ChatGPT for anything and everything (you know they still use it though, right?), using Midjourney to manipulate small changes to photos rather than commissioning photographers or designers… hiring AI engineers for your AI while ‘locking down’ access everywhere else.
Here you are reaping the fruits of this technology without feeding its engines.
So, make your mind up already.
What is it?
A technology to be leveraged? A technology to be shielded from? Something in the middle?
And what are you?
A parasite? Reaping benefits without contributing to the process? A victim of change? An unwilling passenger? Or an active player in a changing world?
You can’t control everything, granted. But you can control what you do next. And you can control what kind of player you are in the process.
Want to hear more? You’re in luck! I’m going to be speaking about this very topic during Sibos week in Toronto. DM me for the session details!
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem.
Leda is also a published author – her first book, Bankers Like Us: Dispatches from an Industry in Transition, is available to order here.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!