Sometimes a technology is so disruptively brilliant that it cannot be ignored. Chat GPT is one of those technologies.
As a slower adopter of new apps and devices, I’ve been waiting, reading, and gathering information about the rise of Chat GPT and generative AI, without actually signing up. Until this week.
My experience of using Chat GPT is exactly what I was expecting it to be — mind-bogglingly incredible. Just like the time I purchased my first iPhone, I realised, at once, that the game had changed. In the words of Bill Gates, “the age of AI has begun.”
The genie is out of the bottle, and this will forever change the way we live and work, whether we choose to engage in this technology or not.
But will these changes actually make us more productive?
Insanely productive or distracted?
The promise of a productivity utopia is in the air.
For example, AI podcasters Michael and Chris Sharkley have suggested that “AI will bring us an insane wave of productivity in the next few years”.
But is it true? Or will we discover, like other advances, that the realisation of “more productivity” comes packaged as more work, less sustainability, and more exhaustion in our lives?
I am not a naysayer. I have no doubt that Chat GPT and other generative AI programs will enhance our world for good. I agree with Bill Gates who says that “AI will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.”
In this sense, AI-assisted work will absolutely deliver an insane wave of productivity. This is the future of knowledge work. And I, for one, am excited about many of these changes.
However, as with any technology, there is more to consider. Alongside the benefits, we must acknowledge the significant complexities that can hinder productivity. In the words of Tim Challies, “technology wears its benefits on its sleeve, but the drawbacks are hidden deep within.”
The promises of a new technology is easy to grasp but the long-term negative effects are impossible to predict without the march of time. We have witnessed how the mobility of the mobile phone expanded work-hours in unforeseen ways and how the Facebook “Like” button unexpectedly exposed our insecurities. Similarly, while we cannot foresee the negative impacts of generative AI and prompt engineering, we can be certain that the outcomes, whatever they may be, will be unpredictable.
That being said, here’s my take: Will Chat GPT make us insanely productive? The answer is both yes and no.
It ultimately depends on how seriously we consider the influence of these large learning models on our time and attention. It hinges on our ability to create space within and around these tools, allowing us to think, rest, and embrace our humanity fully.
For without making space, true productivity remains elusive, regardless of whether or not we have a supercomputer by our side.
The inefficiency of efficiency
Productivity encompasses more than just efficiency. Merely checking off numerous tasks from our to-do lists and possessing the best technologies and habits does not guarantee true productivity.
Genuine productivity is not about getting more things done — but getting the right things done. This stems from having a clear vision, direction, and internal compass. It involves knowing our self-worth before we seek to execute our moral vision of the future with speed and efficiency. Only then, when our path is clear and our big ‘yes’ is known, can we be more productive by accomplishing more in a shorter period of time.
This is why I believe that Chat GPT is both a productivity enhancer, and a productivity distractor. It all depends on whether or not we can manage our time and attention in a world of noise.
If you already know how to make space – unplugging from distraction to reflect on what matters most – then Chat GPT will insanely enhance your productivity. When you need to write a blog post, or research an article, or communicate online, or find references, or summarise meeting minutes, or kick-start a grant application, then generative AI will allow you to achieve your tasks with a higher quality output, in a shorter amount of time. That’s incredible!
But this is not a given.
If you lack the ability to create space in your life and instead find yourself constantly reacting to emails and allowing others to dictate your schedule, always chasing the next shiny object, then exercise caution before diving into generative AI. Engaging with such technology will only amplify your distractions. You may become quicker and more efficient, but you’ll find yourself running in circles, engaging in meaningless activities, or, even worse, making significant strides in the wrong direction.
In the coming years, I predict a surge in meaningless, draining shallow work brought about by Chat GPT and other AI-assisted productivity tools. When digital power falls into the hands of individuals who are ill-equipped to handle it, overload tends to ensue. However, we will also witness a rise in the number of “insanely productive people” who possess the wisdom to discern when to utilise online tools and when to unplug, allowing themselves to be human and disconnect from the AI realm. These individuals will achieve productivity by making space to engage in deep thinking, regenerative rest, and creative pursuits unassisted by AI — thereby directing the AI train rather than merely being carried along for the ride.
Indeed, Chat GPT will introduce both an insane wave of productivity and an insatiable wave of distraction. The key lies in our ability to intentionally make and maintain space around these advancements.
What wave will you catch? And how will you make space to think deeply about the impact of these seismic shifts in your own world, so you can be truly productive?