Issue #29 - The AI That Whispered to Governments

September 16, 2023
Splendid Edition
Generated with Stable Diffusion XL and ComfyUI
In This Issue

  • Intro
    • If you were one of the most powerful tech companies in the world, and you were given the possibility to whisper in the ears of your government, could you resist the temptation of taking advantage of it?
  • What’s AI Doing for Companies Like Mine?
    • Learn what Propak, JLL, and Activision are doing with AI.
  • A Chart to Look Smart
    • The better the AI, the less recruiters pay attention to job applications.
  • Prompting
    • Let’s take a look at a new technique to generate summaries dense with information with large language models. Does it really work?
  • The Tools of the Trade
    • Is lipsynched video translation ready for industrial applications?

Unusual for an intro, I’ll quote a new article written by Todd Feathers for Wired, focused on the sprawling adoption of ChatGPT across US government agencies:

The United States Environmental Protection Agency blocked its employees from accessing ChatGPT while the US State Department staff in Guinea used it to draft speeches and social media posts.

Maine banned its executive branch employees from using generative artificial intelligence for the rest of the year out of concern for the state’s cybersecurity. In nearby Vermont, government workers are using it to learn new programming languages and write internal-facing code, according to Josiah Raiche, the state’s director of artificial intelligence.

The city of San Jose, California, wrote 23 pages of guidelines on generative AI and requires municipal employees to fill out a form every time they use a tool like ChatGPT, Bard, or Midjourney.

“We’re more about what you can do, not what you can’t do,” says Sybil Gurney, Alameda County’s assistant chief information officer. County staff are “doing a lot of their written work using ChatGPT,” Gurney adds, and have used Salesforce’s Einstein GPT to simulate users for IT system tests.

The stakes for government employees were illustrated last month when an assistant superintendent in Mason City, Iowa, was thrown into the national spotlight for using ChatGPT as an initial step in determining which books should be removed from the district’s libraries because they contained descriptions of sex acts.

Seattle employees have considered using generative AI to summarize lengthy investigative reports from the city’s Office of Police Accountability. Those reports can contain information that’s public but still sensitive.

Staff at the Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona use generative AI tools to write internal code and generate document templates. They haven’t yet used it for public-facing communications but believe it has potential to make legal documents more readable for non-lawyers, says Aaron Judy, the court’s chief of innovation and AI. Staff could theoretically input public information about a court case into a generative AI tool to create a press release without violating any court policies, but, he says, “they would probably be nervous.”

Why did it matter so much to be featured in the intro?

Because it dawned on me that, little by little, our policies and procedures could be re-written by generative AI.

Governments can’t compete against the private sector for talent. Not only because they can’t pay as much, but also because no innovator would want to work for a bureaucracy.

Large language models are the ultimate solution to these problems: cheap labor that can be deployed at scale, innovating a bureaucracy without the soul-crushing part of working for one.

The only problem is that, as we mentioned endless times on Synthetic Work, large language models are biased and can be steered by their creators in subtle ways to, in turn, steer even more subtly the people who interact with them.

I described how this is already happening to all of us in Issue #16 – Discover Your True Vocation With AI: The Dog Walker.

Said in another way: if you were one of the most powerful tech companies in the world, and you were given the possibility to whisper in the ears of your government, could you resist the temptation of taking advantage of it?


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