Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
I saw something on LinkedIn last week that made me fear for the future. A guy using AI to put together a PowerPoint presentation: script, images, slides.
This isn’t one of those “be afraid, AI is coming for your job!” yarns.
My fear is the crushing burdens it places on organisations and anyone who works in them.
From a simple prompt that took thirty seconds to write: more barrowloads of information to be heaped upon unsuspecting victims.
The business world is groaning under the weight of unnecessary material, created by wannabes and busybodies.
Please, think of the people you’re affecting with this kind of thing.
Get ready for heaps more zero-thought garbage
I’ll put my hand up now and confess to profiting from PowerPoint enablement. As a provider of, among other things, big screens for events, we’ve helped a lot of people present 200 slides when five well-thought-out ones would have been better.
Our people have watched from the back of the room while tens of thousands of people-hours are wasted by presenters reading words off a screen at a fifth of the speed you could just read it.
That makes us an accessory to the crime. Sorry about that.
And in our defence,
we were only acting under orders some of those presentations were good.
But at least all of them were built by hand, so the presenter had to think about it for at least the time it took to assemble those words and pictures.
How much zero-thought garbage are audiences going to have to sit through now?
I’m not at all bothered by AI stepping in to help with graphics and layout. PowerPoint already does that and it’s useful. It’s when AI comes up with the whole story concept that the trouble starts.
A selfish act that pushes real costs onto others
AI guy, of course, presents it like it’s unambiguously great news for everyone.
He’s saved tons of time by getting his robot mate to make his show. Now he’s ready to waste an enormous amount of money in meetings, a powerful leveraged way to burn cash.
Managers should have the meeting wastage formula tattooed onto the back of their mouse hand. Duration of the presentation (D) x the number of audience members (A) x their hourly rate ($R). At the end of each meeting, they should have to announce its real dollar cost.
The annoyance of AI presentations has so many facets. Like when the audience asks questions the presenter can’t answer because they didn’t write the material. They can’t even confirm whether it’s all true or not, because AI is great at presenting wrong data in plausible form.
It’s a selfish thing to do. The general idea of presentations is that you, the presenter, are an expert with some useful stuff to share. By saving yourself a few hours up front, you’re passing a real cost on to dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people who watch it.
Time they have to spend fact-checking your work. Future mistakes made by acting on unchecked advice. And just the time spend having to listen to something you pretty much pulled out of your arse.
Please stop creating unnecessary work for others around you
It’s not just PowerPoint. It raises the broader question: how much unnecessary, unproductive work are you creating for the people around you?
Every Reply-All email. Every PDF that’s longer than 2 pages. Every monthly report you ask for that doesn’t get acted on. Each is a real cost to your organisation. It’s pulling people away from productive, profitable work.
I’m not saying never do any of those things.
But think before you do.
If you’re senior and confident, you have the option of responding to incoming mega-documents with “I didn’t read it because it was too long, send me a summary if you want a response.” Junior people have to read through all this sludge because they’re afraid of the consequences if they end up getting a pop quiz from the boss.
You see sales managers spending nearly a week a month on board reports, then the board wants to know why sales are down.
Too much information leads to Inaction, and that has a cost, too. You take months to make a decision, because you’re worried that not every micro-risk has been considered and documented. That means paying people to sit in a holding pattern for that time, plus the opportunity costs when your clients move on to other, faster-moving suppliers.
How AI could do better
AI will be super-useful in a whole bunch of fields we don’t understand yet. Until it can out-think us, it’s up to us to think about what we ask it to do. And what we do with all that output.
I think AI would be more useful used in reverse. “Hey Chat-GPT, here’s a thousand words of generic corporate waffle. Distil it down to five bullet useful bullet points.”
Bonus points if it’s brave enough to say “I’m sorry, human overlord, I only detected two useful points at best.”
No story next weekend, it’s a holiday here. Ask your AI platform to write a thousand word business-themed rant in the style of Ian Whitworth.
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