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Avoiding the Horse and Buggy Mindset
how being a laggard is slowing you down
Many of us have seen the incredible capabilities of ChatGPT. Of course, some of us are not as constantly online as others.
The reality that I’m seeing every day is that many people only use the free version (GPT-3.5), try it, see it’s sort stupid, and they walk away unimpressed.
The other capabilities available in the paid version, such as the 1,000+ built-in plugins, Code Interpreter, etc, are only hidden away in settings configurations; not available by default.
In part, this is a marketing problem on OpenAI’s side. OpenAI doesn’t give people free GPT-4 usage at first, so they have no opportunity to see its true capabilities, and walk away thinking there’s nothing worth paying for.
But the downstream effect of this is it actually hurts people. They have an incorrect perception, and it leads them to ignoring something they could use to automate their work, or that someone else is going to use to automate their work.
Beyond that, I’m also seeing that most people outright refuse to use ChatGPT. They don’t care about it, they don’t think it’s real. I’m almost certain that the majority of people don’t want to believe it’s real.
Part of this is the persistent mind virus of hating change, despite it being the only constant. The key to your survival is overriding the inclinations of this virus. Its facets are tempting:
Imagine how nice it would be if you didn’t have to learn new tools or skills
What if nothing could ever take your job?
In fact, what if nothing changed ever?
As you get older I think it’s natural to slip into this mindset. You’ve learned a lot about how the world works, and you sure as hell don’t want to have to relearn everything. We see this slip out with political movements that want to bring back “the good old days”.
Meanwhile, younger people approach this completely differently. They’re still learning how the world works - they see the landscape with fresh eyes and understand that if there’s a new tool that they can use to do their work, they should use it. It’s made much clearer for them in a lot of ways because of how school works. They can see their peers using this tool, and of course this also instantly impacts their grading curves. Every student can feel they’re at a competitive disadvantage to not use it - the standards have risen.
Many students are using ChatGPT to write all of their essays. I’ve talked to several professors about this. They know it’s happening, but they also have defaulted to thinking there’s little they can do.
Figuring out how to squeeze lemonade from these lemons will require some creativity in making students think hard about how to use this tool in unique ways. In a sense, it’s a change to both the professor’s and student’s job - but there can only be a good outcome if both parties deeply learn and understand how the tool works.
However, students are also somewhat limited to their environments. They might not yet see how powerful this tool is, and only think of it as an essay writer, without seeing all the incredible things it enables for them – GPT usage drops off incredibly when school is over.
There’s a real balance between understanding the world, and being amenable to change – being willing to see when, where, and how it’s coming from any angle.
I believe the core of this is looking at our history, the evolution of cultures, and advancement of people, and manually overriding any inclinations we have to stagnation.
If you look at history, it’s easy to see that the people and societies that adapted themselves to technology outperformed others. Those that used cars and trucks could do more than people who used horses. Those who used computers could do more than those who did their calculating by hand or refused to use them.
It’s universal – those adapted to technology, and willing to use newer technology – could always outperform laggards, and could reap immense benefits. Eventually, everyone else is forced to switch tools to stay competitive.
But staying in this mindset can be challenging. It requires being able to see the promise of technology: A tool to make our lives easier and better. And it requires remembering that our job typically isn’t to do menial tasks – it’s to deliver a result, regardless of how it was done.
The lost programmer
There’s a lot of psychological hurdles too – some people believe they don’t deserve a living if they didn’t have to suffer for it somehow. Various mentalities are pervasive and some may never change.
Others are simply incredibly prideful of their work, and refuse to believe something else can do it.
Unbelievably, this attitude is pervasive even amongst programmers. Many programmers think they’re super-geniuses. They develop an ego around it. They don’t think anything could ever replace them.
Sadly, these programmers have missed the forest for the trees. Their jobs are not to program. It’s to deliver software. It’s hard to believe that in the field of technology itself of all things – the field responsible for automating so many industries – that the practitioners themselves are skeptical of automation.
Many of these same people refuse to pay for GPT-4, or even refuse to try ChatGPT at all.
The reality is change is coming fast. Many open source models are now becoming competitive with, and even exceeding GPT-4 in some niche domains. This is going to push OpenAI to release bigger, more powerful, more capable models that could likely blow away even what’s released today. It’s certain that GPT-4 is not the end of the line.
Hopefully, you can see the change coming, and won’t ignore it – being able to adapt simply requires being willing to.
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