Apply your Wikipedia Smarts toward Using AI
In today's digital age where information is at our fingertips, the role of a communications professional has evolved to include a keen understanding of online resources. Most of us are familiar with the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia. In fact, you may have been cautioned about its use in university or your early career. Wikipedia has long been a go-to resource for quick information as well as research, but anyone with a discerning eye and strategic mindset knows to approach it with caution. This skill set can help us use Artificial Intelligence (AI) more effectively.
When is it Okay to Use Wikipedia?
Wikipedia can be a valuable starting point for research or information gathering, especially when looking for general overviews or summaries. Here are a few scenarios where using Wikipedia can be appropriate:
Background Information: Wikipedia can provide a quick overview of a topic, helping you grasp the basics before diving deeper.
Gathering Sources: Wikipedia entries often list sources at the bottom. Use these sources to track down original material for more in-depth research.
Popular Culture References: When discussing topics related to pop culture, current events, or internet memes, Wikipedia can be a helpful reference to provide context.
Non-Critical Situations: Wikipedia can be a handy reference for casual discussions or information settings where precision is not paramount.
Considerations and Concerns
While Wikipedia can be a useful resource, there are several considerations and concerns to keep in mind:
Open Editing: Wikipedia is edited by volunteers, which means its content can change rapidly. Always verify information from other reputable sources before using it in your communications.
Citations and Reliability: Check the citations in a Wikipedia article. The information is more likely to be accurate if sources are credible and reputable.
Neutral Point of View: Wikipedia strives for a neutral point of view, but biases can still creep in. Double-check information from multiple sources to ensure objectivity.
Depth of Information: Wikipedia sometimes provides in-depth information on complex or niche topics. Use it as a building box to find more comprehensive sources.
Controversial Topics: Be cautious when using Wikipedia for controversial or sensitive subjects, as the information may be prone to manipulation.
When is it Not Okay to Use Wikipedia?
While Wikipedia can be a helpful tool, there are times when it's best to avoid it entirely:
Academic and Professional Work: For formal academic papers, reports, or professional communications, use primary sources and peer-reviewed literature rather than Wikipedia.
Critical Decision-Making: If the accuracy of information is crucial for making important decisions, avoid using Wikipedia as the sole source of information.
Legal or Medical Advice: Always consult reliable, expert sources for legal or medical information. Wikipedia might not have the most up-to-date or accurate details in these fields.
Now that we have got you thinking about how to approach Wikipedia, let's turn that thought experiment around and see how it applies to AI and popular tools, like ChatGPT.
When is it Okay to Use AI?
Just like Wikipedia, AI can provide a valuable starting point for research or information gathering.
Background Information: AI is an excellent tool for gathering information from a wide range of sources and providing a quick overview of the topic, helping you to understand the basics.
Gathering Sources: When you ask AI to gather information, try asking it to provide sources and links for each. This way, you can easily dive deeper into your topic through the list of articles and websites AI has used to create its summary.
Popular Culture References: AI uses the internet to provide you with information, and if there's one thing represented on the internet, it's popular culture. Turn to AI if you are looking for the origins of a meme or joke.
Non-Critical Situations: When you have a casual inquiry, AI can filter through a lot of information and provide you with a concise answer. Just ensure you verify and validate any response if you intend to put it to use!
Considerations and Concerns
When using AI, keep in mind:
Open Editing: AI sources its responses from websites, online surveys, customer feedback forms, social media posts, ready-made datasets, etc., which means its content is changing rapidly. Always verify information from other reputable sources before using it in your communications.
Citations and Sources: Unless you ask AI to share its sources and citations, and you have tested the provided links to ensure the data came from reliable sources, it can be difficult or impossible to follow responses back to their origins. Even with links provided, AI might produce information from a source that it can't provide for you.
Neutral Point of View: Kristina Bravod, in an article for Distilled, says, "Algorithms and data come from humans, so AI technologies typically follow biases that exist – like ones based on race, gender, and age." A team of researchers from the USC Information Sciences Institute determined that up to 38.6% of 'facts' used by AI were tainted by bias.
Controversial Topics: As mentioned above, AI is not without bias, and it cannot guarantee a product that responds to the complexities or nuances of a sensitive topic.
When is it Not Okay to Use AI?
Sometimes, it's best to avoid AI entirely. For example,
Academic and Professional Work: For formal academic papers, reports, or professional communications, use primary sources and peer-reviewed literature as your sources. Like Wikipedia, AI can introduce bias, incorrect information, and even plagiarized work.
Critical Decision-Making: Always use multiple sources when the accuracy of the information will inform critical decision-making.
Legal or Medical Advice: And this bears repeating – always consult reliable, expert sources for legal or medical information.
Both Wikipedia and AI can be valuable resources when used appropriately. They can serve as a starting point for research and offer quick overviews and summaries. However, everyone should exercise caution and critical thinking. Always verify information from multiple sources, ensure the credibility of citations, and be wary of biases and inaccuracies. While these tools have their place in certain contexts, it's essential to know when to turn to more reputable sources, especially in academic, professional, or critical decision-making scenarios. By mastering this balance, we can effectively wield the power of machine learning in our communications arsenal.
And if you are ever wondering, should I or can I use AI to help, try asking yourself if you would turn to Wikipedia for the same project. If the answer is no, give AI a second thought.
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