Unless you have been on a media fast, you have probably heard about ChatGPT, which is an AI language model developed by Open AI. It launched publicly at the end of November 2022. And now, ChatGPT-4, a more powerful version of the AI-based software, is here.
I’ve been watching AI and its impact on the social sector for the past 12 years and I have never been so impressed with the usability of an AI tool. It will clearly change all aspects of how we work -- how everyone will work, including professional futurists.
As a philanthropic futurist, I’ve been paying close attention to how ChatGPT will specifically impact grant writing, program development, donor engagement, staff training, operations processes, and communications of my client organizations.
I’m also an entrepreneur and my team has been testing ChatGPT for lots of aspects of our client work, such as writing emails, blog posts, and social media headings suggestions. It has been a game changer for creating first drafts of anything that is going out externally.
I’ve been talking to audiences of nonprofit and foundation leaders across the country about AI tools such as ChatGPT. The main point that I’ve been making is to start learning how this tool works and use it as often as possible. Otherwise, your organization will be disrupted and maybe rendered obsolete by other organizations that are harnessing that tool.
Then, one day, I realized that meant me, too!
I’ve been very dedicated to understanding what ChatCPT could do for other people, namely my clients and my staff but what I hadn’t done is sat down and figured out how I could use ChatGPT for my core work which is foresight and trend sensing.
Taking your own medicine stinks but here's what I’ve learned in my experimentation about how to use ChatGPT as a futurist:
So how can you use this?
Conduct research and analysis: Futurists can use ChatGPT to gather information and insights from a vast amount of data, including news articles, research papers, and social media posts. ChatGPT can quickly sort through and analyze this data to identify relevant trends and patterns that can be used to make predictions and forecasts. It looks like this:
Then you can dig deeper into the sources that created the trends. But remember, their data was pulled from the web in 2021 so you may need to search Google for the results rather than using the links.
Forecast trends and developments: ChatGPT can be used to generate future scenarios based on current trends and data. Futurists can use ChatGPT to simulate potential future outcomes and test various assumptions to see how different factors may impact future trends.
Communicate insights: ChatGPT can help us communicate our findings in a variety of formats. If you’ve written a report, ask ChatGPT to create the executive summary or give suggestions about which pieces to include in a PowerPoint or present you with 10 possible social media posts optimized for your audience.
Monitor and evaluate outcomes: ChatGPT can be used to monitor and evaluate the outcomes of our predictions and strategies. By analyzing data in real-time, ChatGPT can help identify potential risks and opportunities and provide ongoing feedback to help us refine our predictions over time.
The Ethical Considerations
ChatGPT is a tool that is still “learning” how to refine its outputs, so it is critical that people interact with it and give it feedback if it is generating responses that are racist, sexist or if it needs more context on the issues that your organization is working on. You have the ability to make this tool more nuanced. Just click the down button next to the response it provided to give feedback.
There also is an important debate about the human cost of making these AI tools safe for people to use by filtering out toxic data from the chatbot’s training dataset. Real people in Kenya were paid $2 an hour to look through tons of graphic content like child sex abuse, murder, torture, and self-harm to make sure the tool was safe for you to use. Users need to be a part of the conversations about creating ethical AI and we need to be well-versed in these tools to make an impact on these conversations.
I have also heard from many people in the sector that are concerned that this tool will create job losses.
Let me be clear, it will. Just like how the supercomputer replaced the African-American women who were the human computers at NASA or how many bank tellers were replaced by ATMs, all technological advances cause some jobs or job duties to disappear.
But importantly, according to the World Economic Forum, technology creates 12 million more jobs a year than it destroys. We are not losing jobs, we are transforming them into something else and for our field, futures/foresight, that something else could be more time for you to connect with real people in your community and more time to innovate and solve some of our society’s toughest problems. You can use this tool to decrease or eliminate repetitive tasks that don’t harness your creativity or ability to connect with clients or colleagues.
Don’t Get Blockbustered
There is a saying in futures/foresight -- don’t get Blockbustered. That is when an innovation is staring you in the face and you decide to stay on the tried-and-true road instead, to your own peril.
We are at a moment where we need to disrupt our organizations so that we don’t get disrupted. We have the opportunity to free ourselves and our teams from repetitive work and instead, spend more time understanding how to truly solve the issues our organizations are working on. Let’s not let this moment pass us by.
Trista Harris is a Philanthropic Futurist and President of FutureGood, a consultancy that helps foundations and nonprofits harness emerging trends to create a more beautiful and equitable future. Trista’s work has been covered by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Forbes, CNN, the New York Times, and numerous social sector blogs. She also is the co-author of the book, How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar and the author of FutureGood.She is the creator behind FutureGood Studio, a 3-month learning program where nonprofit and foundation leaders learn how to use the tools of futures/foresight to increase their impact.