Quick Thoughts on AI

When answers are cheap, questions become valuable

A few weeks ago I asked ChatGPT to write a 500-word article about the different types of batteries used in power tools. Since I’m very familiar with the topic, I was curious to see how ChatGPT would do. In a matter of seconds, ChatGPT generated a surprisingly good article, accurate and very well written (and not one word longer than 500).

My first thought was: those poor chaps writing website copy and search engine fodder at Fiverr for 10 dollars a piece better find another line of work. However, the implications of this technology go beyond just low-level copywriters. Highly paid professionals, like computer programmers or doctors, are also in the path of this disruptive technology.

It’s not hard to imagine a near future in which you can ask an AI to write a program in Python to tell you when to sell a certain stock, or to use an AI trained with the knowledge and experience of every doctor who ever lived to diagnose an illness based on a list of symptoms.

All this begs the question:

if getting answers to common questions is becoming a commodity at near-zero cost, what will become valuable?

Perhaps the best answer I’ve found comes from Kevin Kelly in his prophetic book The Inevitable, written in 2016. KK says: “When answers are free or easy, what becomes valuable are good questions”. He goes on to define what a good question is:

A good question…

  • Is not concerned with a correct answer.
  • Cannot be answered immediately.
  • Challenges existing answers.
  • Is one you badly want answered once you hear it, but had no inkling you cared before it was asked.
  • Creates a new territory of thinking.
  • Reframes its own answers.
  • Is a seed for innovation in science, technology, art, politics and business.
  • Is a probe, a what-if scenario.
  • Skirts on the edges of what is known and not known, neither silly nor obvious.
  • Cannot be predicted.
  • Generates many other good questions.

Finally, KK concludes, asking good questions will be the sign of an educated mind. It will also be the last job a machine will learn how to do, and ultimately what humans are here for.

Last updated: Jan 25, 2023


© 2024 Mario Sanchez Carrion