Engagement fellowship: generative AI research

By Rory McGowan '23 October 06, 2023

Rory McGowan smiles for a headshot.

Under the mentorship of Professor Tamilla Triantoro, before graduating in May I had the opportunity to research the impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Future of Work.

We investigated current topics, like the attitudes of various populations towards AI implementation and rate of adoption across industries, while cataloguing notable organizations publishing on these themes.

Considering everything, from large consulting firm reports and university studies to Tweets from experts spotted in the ephemeral online AI discourse, we constructed a map of the tech environment as ChatGPT was unveiled and AI took over the conversation.

As an inventive, cheerful partner in creative idea generation, an invaluable ally in what is now an almost entirely automated hiring process, and a tool that can cut dreaded tasks like meal-planning and grocery lists down to seconds, access to programs like OpenAI’s ChatGPT was already bringing value to people’s lives.

We confronted tech-pessimism by illustrating that the voices most certain the sky was falling have always been left behind, as the technologies they decried created jobs and spurred new advancements. In collecting predictions and quotes from experts, we found that sometimes even recent statements sounded laughably dated.

Sam Altman, of OpenAI, in an interviewed with Bari Weiss in April, expressed wariness about casting too far down the road for answers.

Conversations about AI reveal a range of emotions, a laundry list of myths to unpack, and ethical issues that have yet gone unanswered as we continue to embark toward an unknown future. There will be decades of resolution to these issues, and a familiarity with this research leaves me well placed to engage in that conversation without ill-fated surety.

My recommendation to people leaving college and entering the workforce is to use this time to become a resource for those around you on topics that interest you. With greater access to news and conversation surrounding AI, where a young employee might once have been asked for help converting a document to PDF, they are now just as likely to be asked by their manager about the latest AI rendering of the Pope in a futuristic jacket, or applications of GPT in their field.

The conversation on this subject has opened like a firehose since the beginning of this year and being able to participate and form my own opinions has been a timely and meaningful exercise.

Over the course of a semester, I compiled a database of organizations to refer to for quality publications in my areas of interests and learned how to interrogate the gaps in existing research for sources of curiosity that drive me forward.

As someone considering specializations in my field, this engagement fellowship has been the perfect tutorial in identifying unanswered questions to become the person who answers them. I am so grateful for the time and knowledge shared with me by Professor Triantoro in our meetings, and I appreciated the mentorship and guidance this program offered me to learn more about motivating myself through research.

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