An insider’s view of AI, tangible takeaways from Microsoft Build: AI Day

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Lenvi software engineers Stephen Yeadon and Seth Niemuth attended a thought-provoking exploration of AI held by Microsoft earlier this year. Building on that experience with our own Innovation Weeks, Stephen and Seth discuss the extraordinary potential of AI for Lenvi clients, while offering an insider’s view of media scare stories. 

It’s an exciting time to be a developer. When we attended the recent Microsoft Build: AI Day in London, there was a feeling that the wider world is taking a lot more interest in what we do. Indeed, keynote speaker Scott Hanselman revealed how this is the first time in his life that family members with no technical expertise have started asking him about his job. Why all the interest? AI of course! Among other things, Scott’s relatives want to know what ChatGPT is and whether machines will take over the world. 

Clearly, the latter is not the case, and the Microsoft event focused very much on the huge potential that AI tools offer business, rather than sentient robots wrestling humanity’s hand from the tiller. AI has been a big talking point in the tech community for years, and it’s great that the conversation has now opened up to the wider world, because there are so many opportunities for helping our clients. 

Puppets and calculators 

Referring to some of the scare stories that have appeared in the media, Scott (an influential coder, blogger and author) described AI tools as “puppets”. They are capable of good things and bad things, but humans are in control. Or as another speaker said later in the day, ChatGPT is effectively a “human language calculator”. It takes information that has already been written by humans and reorganises it to answer the brief. It’s also an amplifier. Whatever you put into it, you're going to get more of the same coming back at you. Indeed, in the past year or two, a new skillset has emerged called ‘prompt engineering’, which is essentially knowing what to ask ChatGPT to ensure you get the best results. 

So in the hands of a bad actor, these tools can create malicious outcomes – but the threat isn’t from AI, it’s from humans. It’s also interesting to reflect that similar anxieties surfaced at the time the World Wide Web became accessible to all. We all know now that the internet can be used in damaging ways but few would argue that these negatives remotely outweigh the life-changing benefits. 

AI is great for the basics 

Something else that struck us as at Microsoft Build were the parallels between how ChatGPT can create documents, and how AI can help with coding which is, after all, a language of sorts. For instance, if you ask ChatGPT to create a summary of an event, it will cover the basics but need fine tuning from a human. It’s the same with code – AI can increasingly be used to create the boilerplate basics so that we can focus on the code that only humans can write. That was very much the focus of the Microsoft Build workshop sessions, where we used AI to help us, allowing us to focus on what we’re best at. And the same principles can be applied to many other professions such as law, medicine and finance. 

Importantly, the more we use these AI co-pilots in our day-to-day work, the more productive we become – perhaps as much as 30% more productive, according to metrics we’ve seen recently. And that’s just what’s possible now or in the immediate future. It’s so intriguing to think what might be possible 10-15 years from now. 

Client benefits and loan management solutions 

The more we explore this technology, the more we’re developing benefits that can help our clients steal a march on the competition and enhance support for their own customers. We’re building some fascinating roadmaps for the near future and have already begun to roll some of the techniques out, such as using image recognition to classify documents even more accurately but at a fraction of the time. 

We also hold regular Innovation Weeks within Lenvi where, together with all our developer colleagues, we step away from the day jobs to work on new innovations. It’s this appetite for making breakthroughs in what we can do for our clients that drives us on. And that’s why we attended Microsoft Build: AI Day. It was a pretty intense event but we came back buzzing with ideas – and some of our relatives even asked us what we’d been doing… 

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