I’ve been going to a number of conferences this fall, many focused on generative AI. I’m seeing a worrisome but not surprising trend - people who have rebranded themselves as AI experts or even more narrowly as generative AI experts.
On more than one occasion I’ve been in the audience as these 'experts' share inaccurate, incomplete or misleading information with as much authority as a ChatGPT hallucination.
They mix up terminology, conflate concepts and cite no credible sources to back up their claims. Yet, they pass themselves off as experts while leading their audience astray.
What counts as expertise?
It’s OK to switch industries or be new to an industry. I regularly share my own story about moving from community radio to AI ethics - a jarring transition by any stretch! I also believe EVERYONE deserves to be part of the conversation about AI, to weigh in with opinions, to speak about their lived experience. In fact, that is a big part of what I try to foster in my work. This especially includes non-technical people - those of us without traditional computer science or data science backgrounds. I think we need more diversity of thought and various stakeholder perspectives as we grapple with the many ways that AI systems are impacting our lives. I also don’t believe expertise is always enshrined in a credential, be that an academic degree or other designation. There are people who truly are experts that don’t necessarily have a piece of paper, so to speak.
So, what makes an expert?
I think it’s a combination of factors. Certainly having some educational background or training or professional experience is important. Professional affiliations or relationships are another clue - is this person involved in the community or communities of which they claim to have expertise in and in what ways are they contributing to the conversation? Conversely, are they a perpetual trend chaser? Is their resume a repository of every buzz-worthy digital technology?
Were they a crypto expert last year and are now an expert on prompt engineering? These are SIGNS!
Real experts also tend to acknowledge their limits and not oversell. My work is centered on ethics and responsible AI. I always share that “I’m not a data scientist” but instead, I add value as someone steeped in more of the social sciences, media theory and science and technology traditions. AI provides a big tent. There are a lot of opportunities for people to work in this space. We need more diversity and people from non-traditional backgrounds. What we don’t need are people who are here for one hot minute* before claiming they are experts and authoritatively spreading their misinformed opinions. We’ve already got a chatbot that does that.
* This whole post was originally entitled "One Hot Minute" - but there is so much confusion over whether a "hot minute" is a short time, a long time or something else - apparently it can be all of these. SIGH.
By Katrina Ingram, CEO, Ethically Aligned AI
Ethically Aligned AI is a social enterprise aimed at helping organizations make better choices about designing and deploying technology. Find out more at ethicallyalignedai.com
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