Issue #9 - The Tools of the Trade

April 21, 2023
Splendid Edition
In This Issue

  • HSBC launches a new AI-powered index. It looks a lot like the old one, let’s hope the performance is better.
  • Aberhart Farms has been testing drones for weeding for years. Probably because it’s very fun.
  • 88Nine Radio Milwaukee is using AI to power an experimental radio station. The human radio host still doesn’t suspect anything.
  • How to use The Annoying Curious Child prompting technique to get more detailed outputs from GPT-4
  • My favourite teleprompter app and why AI makes it stand apart from an ocean of terrible alternatives

Let’s celebrate this second month of Synthetic Work with some changes.

Change 1: The Section “If You Only Have a Hammer…” is now renamed “The Tools of the Trade”.

Change 2: Starting today, the Splendid Edtion will not dedicate each week to a single topic, but will have something about each and every section. Same content, just a different way to present it. You’ll understand better why below. Let me know if you like this format better or not.

Change 3: Splendid Edition members get a new perk: access to a new database sort of called The Best AI-Centric Tools for X or, more colloquially, Best For.

This database will list what I consider the best AI-centric tools/products/services to do specific tasks across multiple lines of work. It will describe why I think AI is making a difference and why these tools are better than their (listed) alternatives.

I’ll keep the database regularly updated. You can see an example of the content here. It’s a work in progress.

While I’ll mention the tools in the database in The Tools of the Trade section, you won’t receive the database updates via the Splendid Edition newsletter. It’s too impractical to deliver that kind of structured information over email.

You’ll just have to browse Synthetic Work website whenever you need it.

Notice that this database is not organized by product, but by tasks that you want to accomplish. Differently from the large majority of people I’ve met in the IT industry in more than two decades, I believe that customers (me included) reason in terms of problem-to-be-solved or job-to-be-done rather than “Oh I totally should pay attention to random product X from company A that all of a sudden appeared in my inbox and that I care absolutely nothing about and have zero time to dedicate to”.

I’m doing this for three good reasons:

First. You asked. Customers are my number one concern in business, so I listen very carefully to the feedback I receive from all of you.

Second. As some of you know, I try practically every new tool that hits the market (and not just about AI), often before everybody else. And this equally applies to free personal productivity tools and multimillion-dollar enterprise software. In fact, during my tenure in Gartner almost 10 years ago, I was one of the very few research directors installing and trying uber-complicated enterprise IT management and automation suites.

If you don’t try the products first-hand you cannot understand intangible dimensions like the level of friction in the interaction or the emotional response, which end up shaping the user experience into the make-or-break factor that it is.

I spend an insane amount of time searching, testing, and comparing products to be sure that my choices are informed by my selection criteria in terms of quality, capabilities, and level of friction, rather than the hysterical hype of a mass of young engineers.

I’m happy to share the outcome of this time-consuming process with the esteemed members of Synthetic Work.

Third. The aforementioned hysterical hype of a mass of young engineers is causing so much noise that it’s becoming impossible to discern what is good and useful and sustainable from a business standpoint from what is a script that has been hacked in a night and will disappear in one month.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, lucky you. You can have a taste of this by looking at the entire thread below:

In the overwhelming majority of cases, these tools/products/services don’t even have a defensible competitive advantage which means that they will be crushed by the competition of hundreds of clones and you, trusting your business on them, will be screwed.

As everybody has equal access to GPT-4 by OpenAI or the upcoming StableLM by Stability AI, the business moat cannot be a massaged prompt before the user’s one and a sleek user interface to hide it. We said it many times in this newsletter.

So how are you going to pick a decent tool for the job? You could trust an online website, of course. Except that almost all of them are ad-sustained businesses, and many, secretly, are pay-to-play.

Here’s an example I received in my inbox this week:

Let me know what you think about this new perk and submit the tasks you want some product suggestions for.

By the way, we’ll have another two databases going forward: one about prompting techniques and one about how your peers are using AI in your industry (Education, Finance, Government, Health Care, Media & Entertainment, Tech, etc.).

So, basically, one for each section of the Splendid Edition newsletter.

And now, finally, let’s get to the content of the week.

You need a paid membership to read this content.