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Using AI in Small Businesses

My university career kicked off in Exeter in 1998. As a media student, I was immediately exposed to many a famous text. Each one revelled in their own concepts and foundations which ranged from the birthing of virtual worlds or existing in cyberspace, to the notion of fluid identity and postmodern audio production in the age of the digital sampler.

But before all of those, we were submerged into “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, a seminal piece written by Walter Benjamin in 1936 which examines the value and nature of traditional art and the devaluation of its aura in the age of the machine, notably the printing press. In short, he explored the idea that traditional art was being devalued by reproduction. Jump forward approximately 100 years, and you have a potential case of minds being blown.

As I am sure many academics have pondered, what would Benjamin have made of OpenAI and how, via ChatGPT, it has aggressively tentacled itself into popular culture; would he have used Midjourney to model himself in the guise of a legendary D&D barbarian, or more aptly, create 100 versions of the Mona Lisa each with a different smile in under 5 minutes? Perhaps he would be well on the way to using TensorFlow or Caffe2 to train his own machine models or neural networks? I, for one, would love to know.

As someone who has lived the life of a technologist for the last 25 years, the self-fulfilling advent of AI, and the shocking speed at which it has grown just in the last 5-10 years, remains somewhat baffling. As with most technologists who live with FOMO, I have sought out ways to introduce it into my day-to-day life, and moreover, looked for ways to use AI in small businesses in general.

As with all sexy technology, it may not always be the most appropriate thing to use in the context of small business; does a hairdresser need a digital twin delivered through AR to train their interns? I would obviously argue ‘yes’, but more often than not, the cost is absolutely prohibitive, or the technology simply unnecessary. So, in the daily grind of running websites and apps, how can we use AI in the most basic fashion to make our lives easier? The easiest of answers is through content generation.

Whilst I am under no illusion that the text output from ChatGPT may be somewhat prosaic and robotic, there is a time and a place for it, and in a world where businesses are scrambling to generate sticky, valuable content which the search engines will rate and rank, the AI tools can come in handy. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure Mr. Google has AI pattern detection in the works to differentiate between the human-generated and robotic prose, but for now, we can use the AI tools to create secondary content (both text and imagery) to supplement our human-originated pieces.

Content Example

To assist with the Learning Ladders SEO campaign and generate content targeting the keyword ‘curriculum design’, we asked ChatGPT to run the following:

Please write a 500 word article on the methods and models for designing a learning curriculum for eyfs and primary school using the keyword ‘curriculum design’ and using software like Learning Ladders to build the curriculum.

Have a read of the result and see what you think: https://www.learningladders.info/blog/curriculum-design-learning-ladders/

Image Example

As for photos and images to supplement or illustrate content, there are now many apps built on top of DALL-E or Midjourney to generate the exact image you may be looking for. Clearly I took the decision to complement this piece of writing by using a recent selfie of myself, and asking Midjourney to illustrate me in various different ways; the aforementioned D&D style being one, anime-style another and cyberpunk illustration style the final one.

Mike Staines avatar styles generated by AI - using ai in small businesses

Benjamin is almost certainly rolling over in his grave.

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