Contemplating the Meaning of ‘Learning’ AI: Insights from The Grumpy Designer

Artificial intelligence (AI) is beginning to have an impact on society, and while some people have made bold predictions about its future, it is important to approach these claims with caution. One popular idea is the Doomsday scenario, where humans work for machines. However, the practicality and compensation of such a job remain uncertain. Another notion is the need to “learn” AI, with the term “prompt engineer” being thrown around. While this may seem like an appealing job, it is likely to have a short shelf life.

In the past, we used to write code to direct computers, but now we simply tell them what to do. This shift has resulted in less work and more money, making it an attractive prospect for many. However, it is important to consider what web designers should actually learn about AI, if anything at all. While I don’t have any scientific answers, I have a few ideas that may be worth considering.

One area of relevance for web designers is generative code. Large language models like ChatGPT and Bard can accept vague instructions and produce basic code as a foundation. However, clear and detailed instructions are necessary for complex code, which not everyone possesses the ability to provide. Additionally, language barriers can pose challenges if a model is not well-versed in a designer’s primary language. Therefore, improving written communication skills is wise.

Another aspect to consider is the use of APIs to build AI applications. Several AI tools offer APIs, similar to those provided by Google and social media platforms. Web designers can tap into the power of tools like ChatGPT to build applications for specific functionalities or innovative ideas. While not everyone may need to learn these APIs, understanding how they work can still be valuable. There may also be opportunities in helping organizations implement AI.

It is tempting to rely on AI for every task, but it is important to recognize that AI has limitations. It struggles with accuracy and can occasionally produce inaccurate or hallucinated results. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the strengths and weaknesses of AI tools and not blindly trust their output. Double-checking results and regenerating responses when necessary is recommended.

Learning how to get the desired results from AI is more important than studying every aspect of the technology. Strong communication skills and tools that understand instructions are key to success. For those who struggle with writing AI prompts, there are guides available to provide assistance. Paying attention to the wording of prompts and experimenting with similar language can also be helpful. It is also important to approach AI with a healthy dose of skepticism, understanding its limitations and potential for mistakes.

While machines are not taking over yet, it is worth learning how to take advantage of AI. By understanding its capabilities and limitations, web designers can harness its power and potentially become more powerful themselves.