There have been a few big inflection points of societal disruption driven by technology in the last 50 years: One was the introduction of the Internet itself, and it probably isn’t an exaggeration to say it changed everything.
The next big disruptions were the introduction of social media and mobile technology, simultaneously emerging and driving mass behavioral shifts.
These inflection points brought tremendous changes to our lives and most assuredly, as a result, the business of market research had to adapt and change.
But change didn’t necessarily happen overnight … which is in contrast to what I see is the most recent disruptive inflection point: the introduction and stunningly rapid embrace of ChatGPT and other forms of Generative AI in just about every facet of business.
Arguably more emergent forms of AI have been creeping into market research and analytics enablement for some time. IBM’s Watson was introduced in 2010. But the application of Large Language Models and Generative AI burst on the scene last fall with the introduction of ChatGPT by OpenAi, as an open-source tool by which ordinary citizens could have a taste of the power of AI to automate and facilitate repetitive tasks, as well as generate text and visual content by machine.
Controversial, revolutionary, and seemingly magic, ChatGPT has confounded skeptics and surprised early adopters with how realistically it could mimic the “creations” of humans. I have been an unabashed cheerleader of the potential for Generative AI, literally as this disruptive wave of technological impact that changes everything. I believe very few industries will feel the effect more than the one in which I have been making my living for the last 20 years, namely market research.
There is much to debate, so let’s not ignore some of the topics raising concerns:
- How, and on what datasets, are we going to train these models? How do we eliminate biases and ensure reliability?
- How do we harness the power of these models to be summative as opposed to merely generative?
- There are issues of copyright, privacy, and the unintended consequences of inadvertently feeding the models with proprietary data and IP not intended to exist outside the private firewalls of a corporate entity.
- Some jurisdictions (Italy as of the date of this article) are banning ChatGPT until privacy and other issues are addressed.
- As with most technology there is the fear of the algorithm falling into the hands of “bad actors” and perpetuating misinformation.
- Then there are examples of Generative AI stating falsehoods that it simply “hallucinates” with authority without citation of sources, because none exist.
- And of course, there are the sectors of business in which workers are genuinely concerned that the “robots are coming for my job!”
But things will get better, if for no other reason than the model “learns” as it goes. And I am convinced that the world will learn how to use these tools along with human direction to make one plus one equal … well infinitely more than just two!
Even as I am instinctively bullish about the emergence of Generative AI as a disruptive game changer on par with the internet itself, I am observing an astonishing level of interest in all facets of adoption ChatGPT. This is beyond casual curiosity or fascination with some sort of fad; the insights industry is genuinely interested in Generative AI does to enhance our ability to understand and predict human behavior for the benefit of our respective clients.
A couple of data points:
- GreenBook has hosted a fair amount of content and featured topics around the application of AI to insights in the past few months. I have hosted a few podcasts on Generative AI. Overall the interest level has been remarkable compared with any other important topic, like data quality or agile research. This is indeed the most significant thing on the minds of our audience.
- Most recently a webinar I hosted with speakers from Remesh, Question Pro, Yabble and Lucy, all ResTech providers firmly in the forefront of applying Generative AI to their solutions TODAY, resulted in a fourfold increase in the number of people who would normally sign on to listen to our webinars.
- At IIEX Europe, in March, our BrainDate sessions on Generative AI were wildly over-subscribed and our post conference feedback unequivocally cited Generative AI as one of the key areas of debate and discussion at the conference overall. Check out our recent podcast with myself and Karen Lynch, GreenBook’s Head of Content, who curated the event and reported back on the dynamic discussions at IIEX EU on AI and other hot topics!
- IIEX North America on May 24th -25th is featuring an entire track on AI and many partners and exhibitors will be showcasing tech solutions with AI and specifically ChatGPT baked in.
It would appear that the question for ChatGPT is not “if “or “whether”, but “how” to leverage this disruption most effectively, safely and to the greatest good.
I do hope to see you in Austin at IIEX North America. There is much to explore, debate and celebrate in the realm of innovation in insights, and I can’t think of a better cohort of people with whom to co-create the future, especially through the power of generative AI. (And as a loyal reader, you can use the code GREENBOOK25 to register at a discount.)
Want more information on the latest in the market research industry? Check out the latest MRX pulse check on the GreenBook podcast.