Steve Pham

As an editor and writer, I have deeply mixed feelings about the use of generative artificial-intelligence tools such as ChatGPT. My knee-jerk reaction is that nothing can or should replace the human element in any kind of artistic expression. But I have to admit, the relentless hype about it sparked my curiosity enough to explore the ways in which pool and spa companies can use it to help further their businesses. (See “8 Ways ChatGPT Can Supercharge Your Business.”)

It’s truly a remarkable tool. The key really is in how it’s used. Currently, the use of generative AI is mostly unregulated, but the serious implications for its misuse has been top of mind for many legislators, who have had to scramble to understand the technology. In 2023, there were approximately 200 AI-related bills introduced in state legislatures. Only 14 of them passed. At the much slower federal level, House and Senate committees have held numerous hearings on the topic, and have introduced more than 30 bills. The debate promises to rage on in 2024.

Regulation clearly hasn’t caught up with the technology, so if you decide to use generative AI, it has its inherent hazards and risks. Here is a partial list:

1. Data privacy and security. This is a big one. AI technology uses vast datasets collected across the internet. Businesses need to be mindful to vigorously protect their sensitive information and comply with all relevant regulations.

2. Intellectual property issues. Another biggie. Currently, the New York Times is suing OpenAI and Microsoft for unauthorized use of its published work. The case is sure to set a precedent for the usage of intellectual property. If you’re using AI to create content, know that you risk being challenged on copyright and ownership issues.

3. Bias and fairness issues. It’s important to remember that this technology uses data to produce results. The output is only as good as the input. If the data is biased, it will produce a biased result, which may be discriminatory or unfair, and has the potential to harm your company’s reputation.

4. Lack of control. Depending on the types of AI tools you implement in your business, you may have very limited control over the output. Undesirable content, even if unintended, can harm your brand image.

5. Customer trust. Be transparent in your use of AI. Not doing so can erode your customers’ trust in the authenticity of their interactions with you.

And, in the spirit of that full transparency, I will tell you that in my own experimentation with using ChatGPT, I asked it to generate a list of these risks for small businesses. It spit out 10 things, which I winnowed down to what I felt were the top five concerns for the companies in our industry.

What I’m discovering, as I experiment with the tool further, is that that is exactly what it is — a tool. Not a substitute for human creativity, but something that can be useful in myriad ways if applied judiciously and ethically.

So play around with it — see if you can find good uses for this new technology. Let me know what you find.

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