Generative AI; Relevance to Librarians

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

March 14, 2023

It seems to me that discussion of artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. AI has certainly been discussed in many capacities for quite some time, but all of a sudden, it feels like we have turned a corner.

In a previous post, I briefly discussed ChatGPT. ChatGPT has gotten most of the attention as of late, but generative AI is popping up in many other places.

Let’s start by defining generative AI. According to eLearningIndustry, generative AI is “is a type of machine learning that generates new outputs such as text, images, or sounds based on the content it has been trained on. Generative AI works by using generative adversarial networks (GANs), which are deep learning capabilities to create new content. GANs was created in 2014 by Ian Goodfellow and his colleagues to include two neural networks: a generator that creates new content and a discriminator that evaluates new content. The two neural networks operate on the basis of a zero-sum game, whereby the win of one neural network is the loss of another. The generator constantly tries to fool the discriminator, and the discriminator tries not to be fooled by the generator, and the two continue training on the new data generated.”

An article by McKinsey and Company describes generative AI in this way, “Generative artificial intelligence (AI) describes algorithms (such as ChatGPT) that can be used to create new content, including audio, code, images, text, simulations, and videos.”

A key thing to note about generative AI is that it can create content, but only based on content that has been iinput into its system. The content that generative AI learns is often based on large language models. OpenAI, the developers of ChatGPT, have three large language models they use. You can read more about them here.

There are many places you can go to read more about the technical workings of generative AI, and I will link to a couple below. What I want to focus on now, is where generative AI is starting to show up in the workforce.

Those are only five examples, and I encourage you to explore how the industry you work in is using generative AI.

Generative AI is going to start showing up in many places. In libraries, I think we will start seeing it in databases, in the chat systems we use, and in cataloging. To make sure we are using generative AI in a way that is ethical and desirable, I hope we start having discussions now. It is important that we make informed decisions about this technology and use it in beneficial ways. To start, I suggest reaching out to your vendors to learn how they are using, or planning to use, generative AI.

Suggested Readings

What is Generative AI? Article from McKinsey and Company

Generative Adversarial Network article from Wikipedia

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Her expertise includes information literacy, educational technology, and library and information science education.  Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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