This article is the first in a BTW series on AI.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is knocking at your store’s front door. AI systems, such as ChatGPT, are natural language processing tools. They are evolving rapidly and have dominated the news cycle in recent months. Although many of us have been exposed to AI through customer service chats, Siri, and text completion with our email, the AI revolution has reached a crucial tipping point. The impact of this technology on independent retailers is going to be comparable to the introduction of online commerce in the 90s, but, assisted by the internet and social media, it’s going to propagate much more rapidly.
Check out these five steps to examine your store’s relationship with AI.
5 Steps for AI and Your Store
1. Have an open forum with your staff. What do they know about AI? What are their concerns? Discuss the ethical issues surrounding AI. Brainstorm what the opportunities could be for bookstores. Talk about the need to create a store AI policy together so that everyone is on the same page. Many stores may find that staff has already begun using AI in various ways, and others may find their staff has serious concerns about the ethics and how AI could impact their jobs or the authenticity of an independent bookstore. As with everything, communication is critical.
2. Begin drafting a policy. This will help define your store’s position (with customers or staff) and it will create guidelines to support staff. If your store is unionized, check your bargaining agreement to ensure that your policy doesn’t violate it. Policies should include an expectation for fact checking and legal review of any AI generated output and prioritizing DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and access). Create guidelines about the way you want to use or not use AI at your store. If publishers start utilizing AI to create content, how will that impact your buying? If you can’t imagine your store will ever need an AI policy, or use AI, consider all the technology that seemed contradictory for an independent bookstore that we’re now dependent on.
3. Know the risks. ChatGPT doesn’t provide citations unless you ask it to. ChatGPT doesn’t consider DEIA or conscious language unless you ask it to. ChatGPT may share information that is inaccurate or false.
4. Play around with ChatGPT. Go to chat.OpenAi.com and register for an account with an email address, or a Google or Microsoft account. You will need to create an account on the OpenAI website in order to access ChatGPT. Use the “text area” to enter your prompts and questions, then hit enter. As an exercise, ask ChatGPT about the ethical issues of independent bookstores using AI.
5. Watch for future BTW articles, ABA Education on ChatGPT, and more.