I recently had the opportunity to spend two long but rewarding days in San Francisco soaking in The AI Conference. This vendor-neutral event – the first of what will be a yearly series – was focused on broadly sharing AI related knowledge and innovation with the community at large.

Attendees were able to hear from an extremely wide range of speakers. Some talks were deeply technical, while others very high level. There was of course speaker representation from many of the usual Silicon Valley suspects such as Google, Meta, Microsoft and nVidia. Big players in the AI space, who you might not yet be overly familiar with, accounted for most of the other speakers, including the co-founder of Anthropic (the company behind Claude, a market leading LLM). Finally there were speakers from disciplines that were a bit surprising to me, including the Department of Defence, Government, and Venture Capital firms.

In this post, I’m going to highlight three takeaways from the conference. Coming from a technical discipline myself, some of these will deal with the finer points of certain technologies, but I’ll try to focus on the big picture impact that will be relevant to a layman.

#1: Applications You Already Use Will Gain AI Powers Soon. Embrace Them!

This might be news to nobody, but nonetheless I felt it was important to emphasize regardless. Many of the tried and true applications and other platforms you’ve used for years are going to have AI powered enhancements popping up in the near future (or already have).

It can be tempting to ignore new additions and keep doing things the way you always have. Given the potent capability of AI to revolutionize how we accomplish all sorts of different tasks, I would urge you not to overlook these opportunities this time.

Here’s one of very many examples I’m talking about. In November 2023, Microsoft will be launching Copilot, an AI companion for various Microsoft platforms, including the popular Microsoft 365 (formerly Office) suite of applications. Even extremely basic Microsoft Windows applications such as Paint and Notepad will have Copilot enhancement available.

Copilot isn’t going to do your job for you, but it will certainly help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It might even give you a new perspective at times. For example, you could ask CoPilot to analyze your Microsoft Excel spreadsheet giving data and generate an estimate for the next quarter. You could then ask it to explain step-by-step how it came to that conclusion. Will it take a different approach than your church does to project giving?

#2: The Only Thing That Stops A Bad Guy With AI Is A Good Guy With AI

The recent advancement of generative AI technologies has unfortunately allowed bad actors to much more effectively generate fraudulent or otherwise harmful data (whether video, audio, images, or text).

Remember, it’s not the tool (AI) that is the root of the problem here, but the person using it. The best defense against the inevitable misuse of the technology will almost certainly in fact be the technology itself. AI powered systems in fraud detection and similar use cases will continue to advance rapidly to meet this need. I’m probably not the only one that can’t wait for an AI assistant to screen my calls!

That being said, the other critical factor here is simply awareness. Given how easily these technologies are able to achieve high quality impersonation, it is important that everyone (particularly the elderly in your congregation) are aware that it is possible and are mindful of it in the unexpected (potentially fraudulent) interactions they might have day-to-day.

#3: There Are Very Smart People That Care About AI Safety

One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Ben Mann, co-founder of Anthropic. His company is responsible for the development of Claude, an LLM assistant similar to (but with several key distinctions from) ChatGPT. I had the pleasure of chatting with Ben briefly after his talk, which was a highlight of that day.

Ben, and Anthropic as a whole, emphasize AI safety above all else. Ben’s talk at the conference was about the lessons learned trying to make Claude as harmless and honest as possible, and what that might mean for the landscape of AI going forward.

There’s no doubt there is good reason to be concerned about the impact this technology is going to have. We’re in the infancy of what some suspect we’ll one day be calling “The AI Revolution” in history books. While that may seem grandiose, it is clear that at minimum the stakes are very high. I sleep a little easier at night knowing that there are folks like Ben who are putting safety at the front of their priority list.

We Are Ready to Help You

We hope Jason’s 3 takeaways from The AI Conference have been helpful for you. If your church is looking to get started with AI but isn’t sure where to start, reach out and let’s chat. We are ready to answer any question your church has about AI and help your church take meaningful steps toward the future. You can also start using AI to help with your sermon prep. for free today by using SermonSpark.