Current status: there’s about two weeks left before the work year is over. I’m lucky that I get a lot of time off at the end of year. VMware gives a whole week. The idea of the world being shutdown and, thus, feel guilt free about doing nothing is more appealing than it’s ever been. I’m going to try a slightly new format this issue: “less.”
Suggested Theme Song:
Well, it’s actually really amazing. The OpenAI ChatGPT is a great toil for eliminating office worker toil. Toil is a concept that comes from Google’s Site Reliability Engineering methodology:
Toil is not just “work I don’t like to do.” It’s also not simply equivalent to administrative chores or grungy work. Preferences as to what types of work are satisfying and enjoyable vary from person to person, and some people even enjoy manual, repetitive work… So what is toil? Toil is the kind of work tied to running a production service that tends to be manual, repetitive, automatable, tactical, devoid of enduring value, and that scales linearly as a service grows. -“Eliminating Toil,” the SRE book.
The OpenAI chat thing is impressive. It has several immediate uses:
In other words, if there’s “bullshit” work you need to do that can be done in text, it’s very good for that. It may not be the end text you use, but it’ll give you start, launching beyond the blank screen. It’ll also help you set the tone and structure you want.
The first was really good for a “I want to make a viral video in 30 minutes” sort of thing. This is exactly the kind of video you’re supposed to make to build up subscribers, blah blah.
The second wasn’t exactly right. It didn’t talk about Spotify golden paths, but it did a pretty good definition of generic build pipelines, CI/CD stuff.
It’s worth noting that the ~24 hour returns on these videos are not great. But the point here is that with the ChatGPT thing you’d have time to make, like, 4 or 5 of these a day, find the ones that work, tuning them. And, you could re-use them over different channels and repost them over time (hello Instagram!!!). Just doing two isn’t enough: you’d need, like, fifty or a hundred over a month.
Early on in school, I had some kind of learning disability. It was the early 80s, so who really knows what it was? I was given extra time with a teacher who would help me come up with stories and write them down for me. Slowly, I started doing the writing.
I haven’t done much of the interactive chat with the AI, but I’m curious to use it to model learning fundamentals like the five paragraph essay for my kids.
I’ve done this with my son in on my own (that is, I’m the AI)…and…I am not trained as a teacher, I have no idea how to do it and it drives me crazy.
This isn’t exactly that, but you can see how it could be the start of teaching writing by modeling. The point wouldn’t be to turn this in and be done, the point would be to understand the mechanics of writing at a basic level. And, I’d theorize, that if you chatted with the AI, asking it questions about the text, asking it change it and saw the changes it made, you’d learn a lot about writing.
I mean, I took whole writing classes in college that were just that.
There is a lot - a lot - of low-value text like this in corporate life. Automating that text will make office workers much, much more productive. It’s easy think this means they’ll be fired, but what we see in the IT space is that when you automate toil, people just move to different tasks, they “do more with less.”
It’s very funny for a professional writer to admit that his job is to come up with some ideas and then encase them in low-value bullshit that a bot could generate, but I do think he’s right, and that generating necessary bullshit is the worst part of many jobs.
There’s a scene in the Max Headroom show where two lawyers are arguing a criminal case. But, the two lawyers are just floppy disks, maybe zip disks (it was the 80s!). You load them up, some lights flash, and verdict delivered. Clearly, that is scary.
However, most of office life is low stakes bullshit: why not have two floppy disks talk? Then the humans can do the more valuable thing: imagine new things, decide between two impossible/unknowing options, and maybe, just maybe…leave work early to go do something more fun than write more corporate bullshit text.
The talk I gave on our application modernization practice:
You should get and read the paper Marc and I wrote. It’s good and helpful, and I should know, I was there when I we were writing it!