Valentine's Day with Artificial Intelligence

valentine card kids
When love was easy. Or at least easier.

Since my dating days were before dating became an online thing and literally before online was a thing, I haven't really kept up with dating and technology. 

I have friends who got divorced and dipped back into dating and used online dating apps. Over 300 million people use dating apps worldwide, according to a 2023 report by Business of Apps. To visualize this figure, it’s almost the entire population of the U.S. or half of Europe’s population.

Tinder is an online dating and geosocial networking application launched in 2012. On Tinder, users “swipe right” to like or “swipe left” to dislike other users’ profiles. A profile has their photos, a short bio, and some of their interests. Tinder uses a “double opt-in” system, also called “matching”, where two users must like each other before they can exchange messages. In 2022, Tinder had 10.9 million subscribers and 75 million monthly active users.

Renate Nyborg was Tinder’s first female CEO, but she recently left the popular dating app and launched Meeno which is described as relationship advice rather than dating. For example, you might ask for advice about dealing with your boss. The Meeno app uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help solve relationship problems. She predicts that the future will be less about online dating and more about real-life encounters.

The numbers for online dating are huge but Nyborg and others see a trend (with Gen Z in particular – 18 to 25-year-olds) that they are more interested in meeting people organically.

When she left Tinder, she had said she wanted to use tech to “help people feel less lonely” and dating is only a part of that. According to a 2023 report on loneliness commissioned by the European Commission, at least 10% of European Union residents feel lonely most of the time. A Pew Research study revealed that 42% of adults surveyed in the US said they had felt lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, Meeno is intended to be your mentor, distinct from a virtual girlfriend, boyfriend, clinical therapist, or coach.

What can AI do in all this? Broadly, AI can speed up the processing of all these apps. It can analyze very quickly user behavior patterns and datasets to identify potential matches based on shared interests, values, and preferences. AI can filter profiles for inappropriate content, such as nudity or hate speech. It can analyze a user’s swiping patterns, interests, answers to questions, and personality results to introduce them to tailored recommendations.

There are other apps, like Blush, Aimm, Rizz, and Teaser AI, that use personality tests and physical type analysis to train AI-powered systems. Some apps use machine learning algorithms to scan for attraction and then suggest images of real people that the app thinks the user might find attractive. these are more for “dating” than everyday relationships which is Meeno’s current target.

This post first appeared in a different format on Weekends in Paradelle

The Soft Skills of AI

workers talking
Communication is a rising soft skill

AI, especially its subset, generative AI, seems to be changing everything including the workplace. As machines become adept at tasks once considered uniquely human, what does this mean for the workforce, and which worker skills will become more important? For some jobs, AI will simply be complementary to the job, but the prevailing belief is that about half of all jobs will be significantly disrupted by AI.

I have never been a fan of the terms "hard and soft skills" since it seems to make some "soft" skills seem less important. Still, some historically “hard” skills will drop on the hiring credentials.

An article on www.fastcompany.com featured some soft skills that will be important in an AI world.

SOCIAL INTERACTION SKILLSsuch as listening to others in meetings, or collaborating with teammates under pressure, will remain in the human domain. A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that almost all job growth since 1980 has been seen in jobs that are social-skill intensive, while jobs that require minimal social interaction have been in decline.

CREATIVITY especially in using AI. One study found that knowledge workers who used Chat GPT 4.0 completed 12.2% more tasks, 25,.1% faster and with 40% greater quality over those who did not use AI to perform their work. That’s astonishing data, especially the data on the increased quality level. Human workers who leverage AI and who demonstrate a combination of strong creativity and critical thinking skills will fare the best.

CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS I don't think that critical thinking has ever been off the skills list for jobs. It must be applied to evaluate AI responses since (as you may have discovered already) not all responses will be valid, unbiased, factual, or error-free. AI can generate vast amounts of data, analyses, and potential solutions at unprecedented speed, but the veracity and applicability of generative AI’s responses are not guaranteed. A uniquely human skill is to think critically.

CURIOSITY is that innate drive to explore, understand, and seek information about the world around us. AI is not curious unless it is told to be or programmed to seek out information. Workers ask questions, probe into things, challenge assumptions and delve deeper.

Yes, the rise of AI will fundamentally alter the nature of skills deemed crucial in the workplace. While some hard skills and jobs will disappear for workers, some soft skills will remain human-only and therefore will become more important - perhaps "harder" -  than ever.

Begin. End. The Waning Days of Coding

code on screen

A piece in The New Yorker (not exactly a technology magazine) titled "A Coder Considers the Waning Days of the Craft," set me thinking about what tech careers will be lost in the near and far future. Yes, artificial intelligence plays into this, but there are other factors too. Coding seems to be a likely candidate for being on the decline.

The author, James Somers, says that, "Coding has always felt to me like an endlessly deep and rich domain. Now I find myself wanting to write a eulogy for it." With his wife pregnant, he wonders that "...by the time that child can type, coding as a valuable skill might have faded from the world." 

It is an interesting read. Kind of a memoir of a coder.

Schools still teach coding. Coders are still working. The question is for for how long? Should a student in middle school think about it as a career? I used to tell my middle school students that a lot of them will go into careers that have titles that don't exist today. Who can predict?

Somers concludes:

"So maybe the thing to teach isn’t a skill but a spirit. I sometimes think of what I might have been doing had I been born in a different time. The coders of the agrarian days probably futzed with waterwheels and crop varietals; in the Newtonian era, they might have been obsessed with glass, and dyes, and timekeeping. I was reading an oral history of neural networks recently, and it struck me how many of the people interviewed—people born in and around the nineteen-thirties—had played with radios when they were little. Maybe the next cohort will spend their late nights in the guts of the A.I.s their parents once regarded as black boxes. I shouldn’t worry that the era of coding is winding down. Hacking is forever."

The future of coding is likely to be affected by all of these factors:

Artificial Intelligence and Automation: AI is already influencing coding through tools that assist developers in writing code, debugging, and optimizing algorithms. As AI continues to advance, it may take on more complex coding tasks, allowing developers to focus on higher-level design and problem-solving.

Low-Code/No-Code Development: The rise of low-code and no-code platforms is making it easier for individuals with limited programming experience to create applications. This trend could democratize software development, enabling a broader range of people to participate in creating digital solutions.

Increased Specialization: With the growing complexity of technology, developers are likely to become more specialized in particular domains or technologies. This could lead to a more segmented job market, with experts in areas like AI, cybersecurity, blockchain, etc.

Remote Collaboration and Distributed Development: Remote work has become more prevalent, and this trend is likely to continue. Tools and practices for collaborative and distributed development will become increasingly important.

Ethical Coding and Responsible AI: As technology plays a more central role in our lives, the ethical considerations of coding will become more critical. Developers will need to be mindful of the societal impact of their creations and consider ethical principles in their coding practices.

Continuous Learning: The pace of technological change is rapid, and developers will need to embrace a mindset of continuous learning. Staying updated with the latest tools, languages, and methodologies will be crucial.

Quantum Computing: While still in its early stages, quantum computing has the potential to revolutionize certain aspects of coding, particularly in solving complex problems that are currently intractable for classical computers.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): As AR and VR technologies become more widespread, developers will likely be involved in creating immersive experiences and applications that leverage these technologies.

Cybersecurity Emphasis: With the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber threats, coding with a focus on security will be paramount. Developers will need to incorporate secure coding practices and stay vigilant against emerging threats.

Environmental Sustainability: As concerns about climate change grow, there may be a greater emphasis on sustainable coding practices, including optimizing code for energy efficiency and reducing the environmental impact of data centers.

How do I know this? Because I asked a chatbot to tell me the future of coding.

Report: AI and the Future of Teaching and learning

I see articles and posts about artificial intelligence every day. I have written here about it a lot in the past year. You cannot escape the topic of AI even if you are not involved in education, technology or computer science. It is simply part of the culture and the media today. I see articles about how AI is being used to translate ancient texts at a speed and accuracy that is simply not possible with humans. I also see articles about companies now creating AI software for warfare. The former is a definite plus, but the latter is a good example of why there is so much fear about AI - justifiably so, I believe.

Many educators seem to have had the initial reaction to the generative chatbots that became accessible to the public late last year and were being used by students to write essays and research papers. This spread through K-12 and into colleges and even into academic papers being written by faculty.

A chatbot powered by reams of data from the internet has passed exams at a U.S. law school after writing essays on topics ranging from constitutional law to taxation and torts. Jonathan Choi, a professor at Minnesota University Law School, gave ChatGPT the same test faced by students, consisting of 95 multiple-choice questions and 12 essay questions. In a white paper titled "ChatGPT goes to law school," he and his coauthors reported that the bot scored a C+ overall.

ChatGPT, from the U.S. company OpenAI, got most of the initial attention in the early part of 2023. They received a massive injection of cash from Microsoft. In the second half of this year, we have seen many other AI chatbot players, including Microsoft and Google who incorporated it into their search engines. OpenAI predicted in 2022 that AI will lead to the "greatest tech transformation ever." I don't know if that will prove to be true, but it certainly isn't unreasonable from the view of 2023.

Chatbots use artificial intelligence to generate streams of text from simple or more elaborate prompts. They don't "copy" text from the Internet (so "plagiarism" is hard to claim) but create based on the data they have been given. The results have been so good that educators have warned it could lead to widespread cheating and even signal the end of traditional classroom teaching methods.

Lately, I see more sober articles about the use of AI and more articles about teachers including lessons on the ethical use of AI by students, and on how they are using chatbots to help create their teaching materials. I knew teachers in K-20 who attended faculty workshops this past summer to try to figure out what to do in the fall.

Report coverThe U.S. Department of Education recently issued a report on its perspective on AI in education. It includes a warning of sorts: Don’t let your imagination run wild. “We especially call upon leaders to avoid romancing the magic of AI or only focusing on promising applications or outcomes, but instead to interrogate with a critical eye how AI-enabled systems and tools function in the educational environment,” the report says.

Some of the ideas are unsurprising. For example, it stresses that humans should be placed “firmly at the center” of AI-enabled edtech. That's also not surprising since an earlier White House “blueprint for AI,” said the same thing. And an approach to pedagogy that has been suggested for several decades - personalized learning - might be well served by AI. Artificial assistants might be able to automate tasks, giving teachers time for interacting with students. AI can give instant feedback to students "tutor-style." 

The report's optimism appears in the idea that AI can help teachers rather than diminish their roles and provide support. Still, where AI will be in education in the next year or next decade is unknown.