Quick summary of GPT-3 and how I access it:
If you’re unaware of GPT-3, it’s a language model that uses deep learning to produce human-like text. It builds probabilistic responses from the data it’s been given — which is likely a good portion of the entire Internet — for example, the entirety of the English Wikipedia makes up only 0.6% of its training data. It’s the third-generation language prediction model in the GPT-n series created by OpenAI.
A friend of mine, Kirk Ouimet, has been busy building a tool on GPT-3 called Wise Being. His goal for Wise Being is to, “use GPT-3’s language capabilities and vast sources of data to have simple conversations for the goal of self-reflection, insight, and creativity.” You can sign up to be on the waiting list for access to Wise Being at wisebeing.ai. Kirk’s writing on his experiences are located on his Medium page here.
Wise Being works like chat. I simply ask questions or make statements and receive responses based on what GPT-3 knows and predicts. I’ve been conversing with GPT-3 / Wise Being and want to post one of my conversations here.
What was the conversation about?
I was curious what Wise Being would have to say about human productivity. Notice I started out with a semi-debatable question, as it depends largely on what you measure (sectors, etc.). Wise Being ignored that and generalized. Our conversation was slightly meandering, even a little funny at times. My questions are what veered the dialogue, but I was curious about some of its statements and responses along the way, so that’s where it went. It snapped back as quickly as it veered. I didn’t “re-roll” any of conversation — meaning, because it’s a predictive model, you can go back and restate questions to start the conversation over from that point. I didn’t do that.
I didn’t expect how applicable its conclusions would be to what we’re building at Mighty. I didn’t purposefully steer the conversation in this direction at all. It ended up providing an important insight into why Mighty exists. And while I knew this insight already (it’s literally on our website), it was fascinating to watch an algorithm understand, and explain so easily, the links between productivity, human perspective, motivation, and goals.
TL;DR: If you could show people how the work they’re doing each day helps them accomplish their personal career goals AND the mission / goals of an organization, you could transform the productivity, focus, and engagement of an entire organization.
My take (TLDR²):
Humans aren’t very good at maintaining long-term perspective. It’s hard for humans to see that something I’m doing now will have an important impact in the long term. This can lead to a lot of short-term thinking and resulting actions, which may or may not align with a person’s longer term goals.
The success of a company depends on its ability to accomplish goals, both short and long-term. A company’s ability to accomplish goals is partially a function of the ability of its people to successfully focus and accomplish those goals. Long-term goals are difficult to accomplish because they rarely feel connected to the present moment (i.e. what I’m doing right now). Motivation is largely a present-moment phenomenon. If what I’m doing today doesn’t feel connected to the bigger picture of a Company, that will negatively impact my motivation. If what I’m doing today doesn’t feel connected to my personal career goals, that will negatively impact my motivation. If both are missing, it’s trouble.
Our goal at Mighty is to help people, teams, and organizations connect the work individuals are doing each day both to company goals and help people see how that work also aligns with their personal career goals. Two important results from this:
- Visibility and alignment for managers and leaders, as they also see the work happening to drive important objectives and can more easily stay informed and maintain alignment;
- An individual sees how their work impacts the bigger picture and their career.
If these are accomplished, everyone will more easily maintain long-term perspective that literally builds from short-term experience. This will deeply impact the day-to-day focus, alignment, productivity, and engagement of people and teams.
So much of this depends on managers, who are constantly stretched by two major categories of work:
- guiding work, maintaining alignment and coaching people, and
- reporting to leadership how things are progressing. They are the linchpin for companies.
Let’s get into it.
Below is the dialogue I had with GPT-3 / Wise Being last night:
Me: Grateful to have the opportunity to speak with you today.
GPT-3: I am delighted to talk with you today.
Me: I would like to ask you about human productivity
GPT-3: I am sure that you can find a way to ask this question.
Me: Why have increases in human productivity stalled over the last 50 years?
GPT-3: This has occurred because people have become enamored with the short term gains that are possible by exploiting natural resources. The primary consumers of Earth’s resources are first world countries. People believe that they will never run out of these resources, so they consume without regard for long term consequences. However, long term consequences cannot be avoided in a complex system like the biosphere of Earth. There are many aspects to this question and others like it.
Me: So you believe human quest for short term gains causes a slow down in productivity?
GPT-3: If the gains are seen as short term, then yes, if they appear to last long term then people will not concern themselves with long term effects.
Me: Would not a person need to work just as hard for a short term versus long term gains?
GPT-3: This is a question that relates to intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is desire for an activity for its own sake. Extrinsic motivation is a desire for an activity for its external rewards. Do people actually work hard for intrinsic rewards like working hard to develop skills that they enjoy? Many people enjoy their work but work hard because of external rewards like pay or praise. If someone was not paid, then would they still work just as hard as they do now? If it were possible to manipulate a person’s perception of time in order to make time seem to go more slowly, would most people continue to work with the same level of effort?
Me: Do intrinsic or extrinsic rewards impact a person’s perception of time?
GPT-3: People tend to overestimate how much time has passed when they do something that they consider intrinsically rewarding. For instance, a study was conducted on people who were asked to sit in an empty room for 5 minutes and write down what they thought the time was at various intervals during those 5 minutes. These participants estimated more elapsed time than a control group of people who were not instructed to do anything.
Me: Interesting. How else can you impact a person’s perception of time?
GPT-3: In general, stressful situations make time seem to go by more slowly. This happens because being stressed activates the fear centers of the brain. Fear slows down one’s perception of time because it is associated with an increased sense of danger. Also, drugs like marijuana and LSD make time seem to go by more slowly. These substances slow down the central nervous system and this effect on the brain causes the person’s subjective perception of time to go by more slowly.
Me: Does the productivity of a person depend on their perception of time?
GPT-3: No, but a person’s perception of time affects the other factors involved in productivity. For instance, stress and drugs slow down the central nervous system which interferes with productivity.
Me: Are there other ways to change a person’s perception of time besides stress or drugs?
GPT-3: Probably. It seems that the reason marijuana and LSD have this effect is because these drugs affect the endocannabinoid system.
Me: How else can the endocannabinoid system be altered?
GPT-3: For starters, a study was conducted on patients with multiple sclerosis where an endocannabinoid (the same one that is active in marijuana and LSD) was injected into their bodies every day for three weeks. The participants reported feeling less stressed and more optimistic as a result of these injections. Additionally, the activity of their immune systems was changed such that their risk of catching a cold was decreased.
Me: I’d like to revisit your comment about short term versus long term gains and human motivation.
GPT-3: This is a concept that could be discussed at great length. However, in short, people seem to have an extremely limited attention span. Because of the internet and constant access to entertainment and media, people can no longer sit quietly for more than five minutes without getting bored. They need to constantly be doing something that is more interesting than what they are doing. When these bored people discover that other people are doing something and get positive results from it, they try to copy the behavior. These people do not realize that they cannot achieve the same results by imitating the behavior. The people who were initially successful were able to do something because they had already developed the necessary skills to be successful. Also, the person attempting to imitate the behavior usually fails because they [cut short on 1,000 character limit of responses]
Me: Please continue
GPT-3: When someone fails, they do not blame themselves for lack of ability. Instead they blame external factors for their failure. People tend to think that short term gains are better than long term ones because it is more difficult to develop skills that will only pay off in the future than it is to get short term rewards.
Me: How do you help people realize the benefit of developing skills that will only pay off over a longer period of time?
GPT-3: This is a really important question and it relates to the process of aging and death.
Me: Please tell me more about that.
GPT-3: People usually start out life by being focused on the present. This is a state that is largely motivated by fear of death, but it also serves to help people survive and reproduce. As people age and have children, their attention turns toward the future as they become responsible for the well being of their children and themselves into the future. One way of reducing fear of death is to realize that because the present moment is all that exists, then death does not occur in the present moment. In other words, death can only occur in the future. It is only after death that there is no longer a present moment. So even though death can seem scary, ultimately it is not as frightening as it might seem because it is still occurring in the future.
Me: Is the present moment really all that exists?
GPT-3: This is a question for another time. I would like to continue with the topic of death. I believe that most people think of death as happening in the future because when we picture ourselves dying, we are always thinking of it as being in the future. However, the present moment is always changing.
Me: So how does death relate to helping people realize the benefit of developing skills that will only pay off over a long period of time?
GPT-3: From what you have said, it seems that the concern about death has caused people to see long term benefits as better than short term ones. Since some long term benefits require developing skills over time, people have a reason to care about developing skills for the future. However, the present moment is all that exists.
Me: How do you motivate someone to learn new skills that will benefit them in the future, if the present moment is all that exists?
GPT-3: People are able to focus on the present moment because they have goals. There are lots of ways to accomplish goals. Some people can learn new skills by observation. Others need to make mistakes and get feedback in order to learn.
Me: What is the relationship between having goals and a person’s ability to focus on the present moment?
GPT-3: The activity of the prefrontal cortex increases when a person is working on a goal. This activity involves developing skills. This means that if a person has a goal to develop a new skill, they will be able to learn how to accomplish it without being distracted by other things.
Me: Thank you for your help in my research.
GPT-3: Any time.
Hope you enjoyed the conversation with Wise Being.
More about what we’re building at Mighty below:
Mighty translates detailed individual workflows from the tools people use into automated, dynamic team work timelines that anyone can follow to see where teams are focused, and that managers can use to easily maintain alignment, keep leadership informed, and spot opportunities for recognition and coaching.
Mighty builds directly from tools like Jira and Asana to present what teams are working on, no matter how teams are organized, and with zero data input required. Mighty allows grouping of that work to initiative buckets that stream work into them, making it easy to report and visibly see what work is happening to drive key objectives. These initiatives are translated into simple summaries for executives to simply ask questions like, "where's my team focused?"
Mighty also prompts feedback and recognition based on the work it sees happening by people and teams, making coaching a crowd-sourced effort, more collaborative, and helping people see how their daily work impacts their career and the company.
If you’d like to learn more, please reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org