Rise of AI-tech like ChatGPT puts prompt engineers in the limelight

The professionals could make as much as $335,000.
Loukia Papadopoulos
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An illustration of an AI chatbot.


The surge of available AI tools has seen the introduction of a growing field called prompt engineering, as reported by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on Saturday.

The news outlet spoke to Simon Willison, a developer, and researcher who has studied prompt engineers. He claimed that today experts are being used for "communicating with these things” because they specialize in crafting detailed prompts to get better outputs from AI tools. 

Their goal is to improve the results from companies’ AI tools. Willison says in order to do this effectively, prompt engineers must not be misled by AI’s many capabilities.

“It's very easy when talking to one of these things to think that it's an AI out of science fiction, to think that it's like the Star Trek computer, and it can understand and do anything. And that's very much not the case,” Willison told CBC.

“These systems are extremely good at pretending to be all powerful or knowing things, but they have massive, massive flaws in them. So it's very easy to become superstitious to think, "Oh, wow, I asked it to read this web page. I gave you a link to an article and it read it." It didn't read it.”

The expert highlighted how the AIs are simply mimicking what is expected of them.

“A lot of the time it will invent things that look like it did what you asked it to. But actually, it's really just sort of imitating what it thought you might ... but really it's sort of imitating what would look like a good answer to the question that you asked it,” Willison said.

Magic in action

He also added that the whole process of communicating with AIs can sometimes feel like magic.

“it really can feel like you're a sort of magician. You sort of cast spells at [the AI]. You don't fully understand what they're going to do, and it reacts sometimes well, and sometimes it reacts poorly,” Willison further explained.

Asked if there was in danger in how advanced these AI systems are becoming, Willison had this to say:

“I'm not worried about the sort of science fiction scenario where the AI breaks out of my laptop and takes over the world,” he noted

“But there are many very harmful things you can do with a machine that can imitate human beings, and that can produce realistic human text. The opportunities for spam and for scamming people and automating things, like romance scams, are very real and very concerning to me,” Willison warned.

An additional report by Business Insider published on Thursday noted that the professionals could make as much as $335,000 and don't require degrees in tech. In February, Sam Altman, the CEO of ChatGPT developer OpenAI, tweeted about the urgent need of prompt engineers.

"Writing a really great prompt for a chatbot persona is an amazingly high-leverage skill," he said. Meanwhile, a spokesperson at LinkedIn noted that there are currently 708 postings for the position of "prompt engineer," a significant number by any account.

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