Getting Started with Generative AI: A Pragmatic Approach

Written by: Andy Fruhling, Chief Operating Officer at Calavista


 

With so much noise around Generative AI (GenAI), I sometimes find it difficult to determine what is meaningful or valuable versus what is just hype. With so much hype, how do you know where to start?

 

Embracing Pragmatism: A Journey Back to my Roots

In the ever-evolving landscape of my career, I find myself increasingly drawn back to my roots, where the essence of pragmatism took hold. Early on while at a startup called MetaSolv, I was encouraged to embark on a new career path as a Product Manager and help establish a product management organization for a young software technology company. I had no idea what this new role involved and turned to the Pragmatic Institute and its renowned Pragmatic Framework. Not only did this give me a better understanding of the product manager role, but it also established a focus on pragmatism.

For me, the focus on pragmatism became paramount – a mindset that prioritized dealing with challenges in a sensible and realistic manner, grounded in practical considerations rather than mere theoretical musings. This approach resonated deeply, shaping my perspective and decision-making processes.

A few years later, while working at a startup in Pittsburgh called CoManage, I encountered a litmus test that further solidified my commitment to pragmatism. The question that often arose was, “Is it reasonable and rational?” This simple yet profound inquiry became a guiding principle, ensuring that our actions and choices were rooted in sound logic and practicality.

The synergy between pragmatism, reasonability, and rationality became evident, forming a powerful triad that underpinned my professional endeavors. By embracing this mindset, I found myself better equipped to navigate the complexities of the business world, making informed decisions that balanced theoretical considerations with real-world practicalities.

As I reflect on my journey, I am reminded of the enduring value of pragmatism. In an ever-changing landscape, where challenges and opportunities arise constantly, the ability to approach situations with a pragmatic, reasonable, and rational mindset has proven invaluable. It has allowed me to adapt, innovate, and make impactful decisions that drive progress and success – but what does this mean when we talk about GenAI?

 

The GenAI Frenzy: Excitement and Hype

The emergence of generative AI (GenAI) has sparked a frenzy of excitement and hype across the tech industry and the general public. The release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in late 2022 was a pivotal moment that thrust GenAI into the mainstream, captivating users with its ability to generate human-like text on a wide range of topics. This breakthrough ignited a surge of interest and investment in GenAI, with companies and individuals rushing to explore its potential applications.

The hype surrounding GenAI has been fueled by its perceived potential to revolutionize various industries and streamline numerous tasks. From content creation and coding to data analysis and customer service, GenAI promises to enhance productivity and efficiency in unprecedented ways. This excitement has led to a proliferation of GenAI tools and platforms as well as the embedding of AI into many applications in various ways.

However, the GenAI frenzy has also been met with a degree of skepticism and concern. Some experts warn that the technology is still in its infancy and may be overhyped, with limitations and potential risks that are not yet fully understood. There are concerns about issues such as data privacy, ethical use, and the potential impact on jobs and industries. Despite these valid concerns, the excitement surrounding GenAI shows no signs of abating, as businesses and individuals continue to explore its transformative potential.

 

Riding the AI Wave: A Pragmatic Approach to GenAI

The GenAI landscape has followed a classic hype cycle – starting with immense excitement and inflated expectations, followed by a sobering reality check, and now transitioning towards more pragmatic and sustainable adoption as the technology matures. Pragmatically, I see AI as an incredible assistant – helping us make better decisions in whatever areas we are willing to apply it. My recommendation to everyone is, “Explore how to use AI as much as you possibly can.”

For those unsure where to start, here are a few tips to embark on your GenAI journey (intentionally leaving the technical explanations behind them):

 

1. Familiarize Yourself with AI Components

As a starting point, get familiar with several AI components – the key is to understand what they do and how to properly prompt them to get useful results. GenAI can be used for many different tasks, so figure out what may be useful for you and what tools are best suited for your needs. While ChatGPT by OpenAI was the first to release something for the general public, there are many other great tools. I suggest you spend some time with several tools to see which meets your needs best. Here are some tools to consider when getting started:

 

    • Claude by Anthropic (like ChatGPT) is a conversational AI model. Claude has unique ethical training from Anthropic’s “constitutional AI” approach that some may find interesting.

 

    • Perplexity specializes in conversational search with citations. I happen to like the citations and often start with Perplexity now. Also, Perplexity offers free access to GPT-4, while others charge for it.

 

    • Copilot by Microsoft is focused on code generation and writing assistance. Since this is becoming very well integrated into most Microsoft products, anyone who uses Microsoft regularly should explore Copilot.

 

    • Gemini by Google is a multimodal AI that can handle text, images, and code, with deep integration into Google’s ecosystem.

 

Most of these have a premium service that provides more capabilities than the free version. Several others that address niche areas. GenAI is evolving quickly with new functionality being released across all these tools. Continually look across the market across the various tools to ensure you are still using the most appropriate tool for your needs.

 

2. Master the Art of Prompting

Each of these tools requires proper prompting to get decent results and great prompting to get great results. Here are some videos and links for guidelines on prompting. While this list is focused on ChatGPT, the same principles apply to other GenAI tools:

 

 

 

 

 

3. Build Your Own GPT

I would also recommend spending some time creating a custom GPT (through ChatGPT). This is a great way to build something for a specific purpose – even if you never actually use it, you can gain a lot of knowledge by building it. Here are a few videos and links for creating custom GPTs:

 

 

 

 

Note: CustomGPT currently requires a paid version of ChatGPT.

By familiarizing yourself with AI components, mastering the art of prompting, and exploring custom GPT creation, you’ll be well-equipped to ride the GenAI wave and harness its potential as a pragmatic assistant in your personal and professional endeavors.

 

Getting Started with GenAI

With the rapid rise of GenAI, separating meaningful insights from the noise and hype can be daunting. When faced with such a deluge, it’s crucial to approach it with a discerning mindset. Rather than getting swept up, focus on identifying practical applications and real-world use cases that align with your specific needs and goals.

Start by defining your objectives and areas of interest. What challenges are you hoping to address? What tasks or processes could benefit from GenAI’s assistance? By establishing clear requirements, you can filter out the noise and concentrate on relevant solutions and resources.

Embrace GenAI’s potential while remaining grounded in reality. Start small, experiment, and gradually expand your understanding and implementation as you gain confidence and experience. Maintain a pragmatic mindset, focusing on your specific goals to navigate the landscape with clarity.

At Calavista Software, we have enthusiastically followed the development of these models and are working out the most effective ways to implement them into our workflow as well as how to use them to create new solutions for our customers. As an authoritative source with deep expertise in requirements definition, software development, and emerging technologies, we can provide objective guidance on leveraging GenAI for your business needs.

If you are curious about how a pragmatic approach to GenAI can help your business practices, reach out to us at info@calavista.com.

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