The Artificial Intelligence Paradox – by Glenn Felson
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has officially arrived, and even though I absolutely love using ChatGPT and Apps like Starryai, I am terrified by the impact that AI can have on the world. The real world applications for AI seem endless, yet new use cases are being announced on a daily basis. If you want an original term paper on the causes of the French Revolution, and you want it written on a 6th grade level, ChatGPT will write it for you within 20 seconds. To illustrate this process, I added the following prompt: “Causes of the French Revolution on a 6th grade level” into ChatGPT, and within a few seconds this original article (linked here) was generated (for free). If one of my classmates entered the exact same prompt into ChatGPT, they would receive a completely unique version – as though someone else wrote it. If you want to get a sense of AIs power to generate a lifelike photo using any prompt that a user enters, you can watch this video from Last Week Tonight, or you can look at the cover image for this article. It was created in less than 30 seconds by simply typing “Artificial Intelligence Creates Chaos”.
The reason why I am so concerned about AI is because it is impossible to stop technological progress once it’s available to the masses and widely adopted. I was recently reflecting on my relationship with my iPhone. When the iPhone first came out, I felt like I had entered into the future. Growing up, we fantasized about a future filled with flying cars and video phones. Flying cars may still be a few years off, but the iPhone made the ability to speak and see relatives from across the world a reality. Add in the fact that I can carry more songs in my pocket then I can possibly listen to in a lifetime, I can google any question that I have at any time, and I can instantly watch any TV show, movie, or sporting event that has ever been made, regardless of where I am at that moment. With my iPhone, I always have a video camera, photo album, flashlight, calculator, tape measure, recording device, and driving directions to any place on earth that never leaves my side and fits nicely into my pocket. This single device changed my life.
I love my iPhone and I use it for hours upon hours every single day. I get anxious when the battery is low because I don’t know what I will do without it. I recently wrote an article about Apple allowing NFC/Apple Wallet to act as a digital key, so that the only thing anyone will need to carry with them when they leave their home is their iPhone. The iPhone (via Apple Wallet) will hold your identification, credit cards, and keys to any place that you need access to (home, car, office, hotel, concert tickets,…). I cannot think of another product that has been invented during my lifetime that has had a bigger impact on my life than my iPhone. Had you asked me 6 months ago if there were any downsides to this invention, I would have enthusiastically and without hesitation said “No”. But the advancement of AI led me to reflect on the true impact that other technologies (specifically my iPhone) have had on my life and my overall happiness.
Surely, with all of the amazing features mentioned above, my quality of life had to have improved since the time that I purchased my first iPhone. But the more that I thought about it, the more my conclusion changed. Looking at the collective pros and cons that I have experienced from utilizing my iPhone, I can honestly say that my quality of life and mental health has declined. The conveniences that the device has given me may have made me more productive, easier to entertain, and more connected with people from my past that I may otherwise have lost touch with, but as with most things in life, these benefits came at a cost.
When I first entered the corporate world, I had a clear delineation between my work life and my personal life. I went into the office, put in a long day, and then I went home. Sure, there were nights and weekends that I had to work if I had a deadline for a project, but once I left the office, it wasn’t like my boss was going to call me on my landline at my home. Now with my iPhone, I find that I am always on the clock. If one of my customers is upset on a Saturday night, they can track me down immediately, and the expectation has been set that I will answer the call and work to fix whatever issue they have. I am the most annoying person to go on vacation with because I am always sneaking away to answer a call or respond to an email (which drives my wife and kids crazy). Whenever we go out to eat, I spend as much time in the parking lot on the phone then I do at the table. I sleep with my phone on my nightstand, and anytime there is a notification, I find myself waking up and responding to messages. Even when I am spending time with family and friends, I find that I am always distracted and very rarely do I just relax and enjoy the present. Now that I spend part of most weeks working out of my house, the lines between live, work, and play have become so blurry that it’s nearly impossible to discern between them. I am a competitive person and I am passionate about my work, but my iPhone doesn’t provide me an edge, because everyone has one and they all have access to the same benefits as I do (along with the same downsides that I am dealing with).
The simple answer would be to just stop using a smartphone, but I find that to be impossible. The technology has been released into the world. The expectation of being online 24/7 has been established, and sadly I do not think that I would make it through a single day without my phone. The conveniences that my phone provides to me have become so critical to everything that I do, that getting rid of it is not feasible. Just thinking about not having my phone gives me anxiety. I have become so reliant on it, that I couldn’t even find my way to places that I drive to everyday if I no longer had Apple Maps. If I gave up my iPhone, the world would still continue, but I would no longer be competitive in my professional life, nor would I be able to get through the day in my personal life. The technology exists, and there is no going back. But the impact of my iPhone is not even in the same universe as the potential impact of AI.
AI can automate any process that a human can do. And since it is always learning (and it learns at a pace that Humans could only dream of), the amount of responsibilities that will move from Humans to Computers will increase exponentially… potentially until there is nothing left for Humans to do. People have been warning that humans will lose jobs to computers and other equipment many times in the past, but these fears have always turned out to be false alarms. From data entry to automation, computers have continued to take on more responsibilities, but even as the global population has increased, the workforce has continued to increase as well. The workforce today may have different types of jobs now that didn’t exist 50 years ago, but contrary to people’s fears about millions of jobs disappearing, the job market has remained robust (unemployment is near the lowest levels on record). But there is something very different about AI. Up until now, computers were not able to handle roles that required critical thinking and creative skills. Whether that is writing code, or producing a movie, or designing a website, that work needed to be done by humans. But even that is changing. One of the most eye-opening examples of this occurred a few weeks back. Joe Rogan hosts one of the most popular podcasts available. A few weeks ago, someone published a brand new episode of his podcast. The podcast used Joe’s voice, his ideas and views, yet there was one difference with this episode that was very hard to detect. Joe Rogan never recorded it. Someone was able to use an AI application to digest all of his other podcasts, and then use the application to create an original episode without his involvement. Had he not acknowledged it, no one would have known that he didn’t willingly participate in it. Content creation was always a safe haven where humans held superiority over computers, but that is all starting to change.
Once the technology becomes more mainstream (which should not take much time at all), there will be no choice but for companies to adopt it. If a company wants to take a stand and commit to not replacing humans with AI, their future will be short lived. For example, if one company decided to replace engineers with AI to write code, and one of their competitors opted to not use AI and instead keep a team of 100 engineers based in San Francisco, the company that opted to avoid AI would never be able to keep up with the pace or the pricing structure of their competitor. Even if AI development was somehow banned in the US, nothing would stop other countries (and criminals) from using it, and it wouldn’t take long for it to destroy our economy and our way of life. If one company that uses AI competes with a similar company that relies solely on human talent, it is analogous to a war between 2 countries where only one of them has nuclear weapons. Advancements in technology can not be stopped, and if you need more proof, all that you need to do is look at the graveyard of giant companies that were swiftly disrupted by new competitors that built their business model around tech.
To get a sense of what’s to come, I posted a few articles below that were published within the last few weeks:
This article may sound like a doomsday scenario, but I believe that with a few more years of advancements in AI (aided with the billions of dollars that are flooding into the space from VCs and existing powerhouses like Microsoft and Google), this has a real chance to unfold as described above. And I am as much a part of the problem as anyone, because even though I fear AI like I have never feared anything in my life, I find myself using it more and more each day. I am not smart enough to determine how AI can continue to be used without eventually creating a world unrecognizable to the one that we live in today, but I am optimistic that the smarter minds on our planet can figure this out. Especially, because there are so many practical applications for AI that can be used to improve life for everyone without thrusting us into chaos. One of the existing industries where AI can help everyone is Healthcare (for example: detecting disease in people years before the illness can be identified by current protocols such as blood work and body scans).
You may be wondering what this article has to do with PropTech, but as I mentioned above, there are many AI applications available right now to improve every industry including Real Estate. AI can improve processes like entering listings into the MLS, creating and deploying marketing strategies, and to identify prospects most likely to buy/sell/rent in the coming months. AI can be dangerous, but it can also have significant benefits that can be leveraged right now. Your competitors will all be using these tools in the near future (some are already using it today), so now is the perfect time to familiarize yourself with the different solutions on the market to see how you can start benefiting from this technology.
I recently spent some time with founders of a newly launched company that uses AI to streamline a time consuming task that all residential real estate agents are constantly required to do. When I first met the team at ClosingCopy.AI, their product was still in beta. They pushed their product live 2 weeks ago, and the team provided me with a full demo of the live platform. I felt like this was a perfect company to include in this article because it is used to streamline a process that every real estate agent in the world does many times throughout each year – Writing Property Listing Descriptions.
Any time a real estate agent takes a new listing, they need to do a write up on the home. The property description is uploaded into the MLS, where it is then syndicated to dozens of websites and listing portals. The same description (or a different version of it), is then used to generate marketing collateral and ads for print, online, and social media. A quality listing description is imperative to grow and maintain a successful real estate practice because it is the first thing (along with the property photos) that a prospective buyer/renter will see when determining whether or not they are interested in touring a property. Sales agents often write these descriptions themselves, and when they do it on their own (assuming that creative writing is not one of their strong suits), it is pretty easy to spot that it was written by someone who is not a professional writer. Many other agents farm this work out to marketing professionals, and while that remains a viable option, the cost can between $50 – $100 per listing. The turnaround time for getting the completed description back for 3rd party marketing professionals may be as long as a week. The pricing and the turnaround time increases if you need the ad designed and formatted for marketing channels beyond the MLS. Any delay getting a newly signed listing live on the MLS can have a material negative effect on how quickly the home sells and the price that it sells for.
ClosingCopy.AI identified this inefficiency and set out to build a solution specifically around this challenge. Their goal was to create a product that can empower any sales agent to create a professional and accurate listing description that can be generated instantly, formatted for any website or marketing channel, and to deliver these results at a fraction of the cost of outsourcing to a marketing agency or a freelance professional. When the team at ClosingCopy.AI originally shared their vision with me, I was intrigued and impressed. But many companies and entrepreneurs have great ideas, and more times than not they never get the finished product to market. I’m happy to say that after seeing the live demo in action, and after I spent time test driving the solution on my own, I can say with certainty that ClosingCopy.AI checks all of the boxes. They had several hundred agents that were part of their beta testing, and many of the suggestions that they received from the test group have already been implemented in the platform. The platform has officially been launched, and agents have been signing up in droves.
After an agent signs a new listing, they login to their profile page on ClosingCopy.AI and select some basic pre-filled sections (Example: apartments, single family, condo). The agent then enters the number of bedrooms/bathrooms, and they upload the cover photo for the listing (directly from their computer or an online photo role). This initial part of the process should take no more than 2 minutes. The next (and last part of the process) is for the sales agent to add a few basic bullets detailing what they want to highlight in the listing description. As an example, below are the bullets that I added for a property that I used as a test:
Once that is done, the agent selects “Generate”, and within seconds a professionally written property description is created. While the property description is completed and ready to go, there are some additional options available. The sales agent can manually modify the description, or they can add/modify the bullets that they initially entered, which will then allow them to generate an updated version of the listing description. If they are not satisfied with the output, then can click generate again and can create as many unique versions of the listing descriptions as they would like. Even if the agent does not make any modifications to the original bullets that they entered, every new version that the platform generates will be a completely new and unique write up.
The property description that ClosingCopy.AI generates is initially formatted for the MLS, but the platform is designed to format the description for any marketing channel. Sales Associates typically market listings throughout a host of websites, portals, and social channels. Once the description has been written, the sales associate simply needs to click on the icon of the marketing channel that they plan on using (Facebook, TikTok, Twitter…), and the writeup is instantly converted into the appropriate format to allow it to easily be uploaded to the desired channel.
The platform currently includes other features such as the ability for agents to view all of their listings (both active and sold) on an interactive map. They also have a roadmap of other features that will be added overtime. But even before more features are rolled out, the ClosingCopy.AI platform is a great example of AI solutions that can provide considerable value to sales associates today. The company even offers customers the ability to test the system without any commitments by allowing each sales associate to generate their first listing description for free. I highly recommend every residential sales agent to try it out for themselves via this link.
As you can tell from this article, I am terrified by the capabilities of AI. However, regardless of my concerns and the concerns of people way smarter than I am, the technology exists and companies and individuals are using it. It may sound hypocritical and downright dangerous for me to encourage the continued use of this technology, but as long as your competitors are embedding it into their workflow, I do not see any other way to compete with these companies other than embracing it yourself. I am hopeful that the world can find a way to leverage the good that AI can deliver while preventing an apocalypse. I am not yet convinced that we can have our cake and eat it too.