I suspect that this is a naive question already thought through by people much smarter than I, but here goes.
We’ve heard some concerns expressed lately about large language models training on texts and images on the internet whose authors/producers might not consent to such use. Some commentators focus on copyright but that might not really be the right angle given the policy purpose of copyright. But the angle is not so important for my question.
So, generation one, so to speak, of large language models have trained on a corpus drawn from the open internet. Some like to call this “everything humans have ever written” though that’s surely an overstatement. And one application of LLMs that we have seen tried out is “fine tuning” on an organization’s data – perhaps all of a company’s products or its entire policy manual or its internal knowledge management resources (wikis, etc.).
But what happens when we try out training or fine tuning a model on every single keystroke within an organization. And maybe supplement that with a transcript of every single conversation in an organization. So now the model can learn not just from the “work product” of the organization’s employees, but also the work process of those employees. It learns how problems are posed for an employee and how that person goes about figuring out how to solve it as well as learning the solution itself.
Professionals are accustomed to their employers owning their work product and what many knowledge professionals spend their days doing is analyzing problems and coming up with a process that can be implemented to make handling the situation that was a problem by routine action so that it becomes just a matter to deal with following standard operating procedures. In practice, the professional moves on to the next challenge once their process has been successfully implemented.
But what happens when the model starts to understand how that’s done. When it figures out how people figure out things. And not just how I do, but how all my colleagues do to. And it can assemble the best practices from among all of our practices. In other words, the model starts to execute on the very activity of organization, the very stuff of management. Does my sense of what I’m doing as a highly paid professional change when I come to recognize that not only is my work product owned by my employer – something I’m quite used to – but now too all the cognitive work I do to produce that product can be used to train a tool that my employer owns? Is this business as usual? Simply the invention of a better tool that enables higher productivity that yields a bigger pie for all to share? Or is something qualitatively different going on here?