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Luddite Alert

Sometimes the work is the way

Before we begin, we fully acknowledge this is a luddite rant and that we’ll likely be judged as those people who need grandpappy’s hammer to work at GE.  We also acknowledge that ChatGPT (and similar AI functions) have the ability to add tremendous value to our economy.  It will transform the world in unknowable and unprecedented ways.  We live in exciting times. 

The ranty criticism we have is that some people seem to be using AI not as the useful tool it is, but rather as an excuse not to think.  And we think thinking is important because if we want to build something special, it’s unlikely to come from AI prompts. 

ChatGPT outputs are a commodity.  Using the tool effectively results in more output, which in some situations, is really wonderful.  But let’s not kid ourselves; the results are at best vanilla summaries.  From a recent Seth Godin post

“Ever since there has been high school, there has been the instinct to read the Cliffs Notes. The internet took this idea, added a gratuitous semicolon and perfected Too Long; Didn’t Read. This is the mistakenly proud assertion that we are far too busy and too important to read the whole thing, we skimmed a summary instead. At first glance, it seems as though AI is good at this.

Why read four pages when you can read a few bullet points instead? Or why bother sitting through Waiting for Godot, when the summary gives away the plot: ‘Two men, Vladimir and Estragon, wait for the enigmatic Godot. They engage in meandering conversations and encounter other characters, but Godot never arrives, underscoring the absurdity and futility of existence.’

…Ask someone who finished running a marathon–for many, the moment they crossed the finish line is not the most memorable part of the experience, and for those that find that it is, it only matters because of the tens of thousands of steps that came before. When we lean into exploration, we’re far more likely to find something that matters. Because we worked for it.”

We believe that sometimes you need to actually do the work yourself.  Struggling through long documents filled with legalese is part of learning how to understand the legal system.  Crafting thoughtful emails is part of learning how to authentically express yourself.  On a personal note, we’ve found that a lot of fulfillment comes from the tedious work that goes into creating meaningful outcomes. 

Of course, there’s always a valid use case for productivity tools.  However, the frantic rush to summarize everything risks taking the learning, meaning, and beauty out of work.  So, if you’re looking for a quick summary, by all means, use ChatGPT.  If you’re looking to build something special, use your brain.

Have a great week,

Your Chenmark Team

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