Everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI) these days. It’s actually been around for quite a while. ERP software companies have been using it for years in their R&D efforts, and other tech-minded companies use it to vet production processes and other quality control applications. A big difference between past AI applications and chatbots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft’s Bing and Google’s Bard is that anyone can access them on the internet.
The most popular of these chatbots, ChatGPT (https://chat.openai.com), has only been available for four months, but it’s already an online sensation. Released to the masses by Elon Musk and OpenAI’s other co-founders on Nov. 30, 2022, it only took four days for ChatGPT to hit the 1-million user mark.
Bill Gates said in his blog, www.gatesnotes.com, that only two demonstrations of technology ever struck him as revolutionary. One was when he first saw a graphical user interface, now used to access personal computers, and the second was when saw ChatGPT. Gates was sold on ChatGPT after he challenged the OpenAI developers to train their AI to pass an AP Bio exam, and ChatGPT got 59 out of 60 questions correct, even though it had never seen any of the specific questions before.
Gates said in his blog that the development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, personal computer, Internet and mobile phones.
“It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care and communicate with each other,” he wrote. “Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.”
I was inspired to test ChatGPT’s usefulness in the electrical market after reading David Gordon’s “A Chat with ChatGPT About the Outdoor Lighting Market” on www.electricaltrends.com. Gordon asked ChatGPT questions about trends in the outdoor lighting market and although some of the answers were pretty rudimentary, you could see how this technology will get much smarter as it assimilates more information on users’ queries.
I asked ChatGPT 16 questions on various topics in the electrical market. For the most part, I was impressed with ChatGPT’s answers, although they seemed to be drawing from the well of basic electrical market knowledge. A few answers were incorrect, but most were accurate, if pretty basic. Here are five of the questions I asked ChatGPT:
- I am a distributor of electrical supplies. One of my lighting manufacturers recently launched a new LED lighting product. Please write a strategic marketing plan to help me sell this new product.
- How can I use my ERP computer system to help manage my inventory of products so I don’t have stock-outs?
- I am a developer of ERP computer systems for distributors. How can I use artificial intelligence to improve the ERP solutions my company sells to distributors?
- I am an small electrical distributor who would like to use social media to promote my company more effectively. Please write me a strategic plan to do this.
- I am an independent manufacturers’ representative who sells electrical supplies. I need advice on whether or not to take on a new lighting product line to sell.
It’s worth your time to explore what these chatbots have to offer. An interesting exercise might be to assign employees in each of your company’s departments the task of coming up with 10 questions for ChatGPT on their specific piece of your business. Then have each department’s manager ask ChatGPT those questions. While many of the responses may be very basic, the exercise may uncover some topics that you can dig into at your next strategic planning meeting.
ChatGPT is not infallible. Occasionally, its answers could be punchlines for the jokes of late-night comedians on television. But it’s early days for these chatbots, and once their artificial intelligence gets “smarter,” how much they know might get a bit scary.