There’s no denying the profound impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on our world. With notable milestones like ChatGPT captivating over 180 million users, AI has undeniably woven itself deeper into the fabric of our lives.
But Harriet Kelsall is just one individual whose voice is going against the grain, telling the BBC that AI isn’t for her.
Defying the Current: A Dissenting Voice
Ms Kelsall is just one of the many who admit that, simply, AI just isn’t for them.
Based in Cambridge, Ms Kelsall says that, being dyslexic, she thought using AI may help improve the clarity of her communication with customers on her website. Ultimately, though, she says that she just doesn’t trust it.
Ms Kelsall says that, when she experimented with ChatGPT this year, she noticed that its answers were littered with errors. She tested this theory by quizzing it about the crown worn by King Charles III in his coronation back in May – the St Edward’s Crown.
“I asked ChatGPT to tell me some information about the crown, just to see what it would say,” she says.
“I know quite a bit about gemstones in the royal crowns, and I noticed there were large chunks within the text about it which were about the wrong crown.”
Additionally, Ms Kelsall voiced concerns that she thought people might be “passing off what ChatGPT tells them as independent thought and plagiarising”.
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AI Narratives: Women’s Voices
Despite the immense popularity of ChatGPT since its launch one year ago, Ms Kelsall’s reluctance to use it appears to be significantly more common among women than men.
Recent data reveals that 54% of men incorporate AI into their professional or personal lives, whereas this figure drops to only 35% for women, as reported in a survey earlier this year.
This prompts the question: What factors contribute to this apparent gender gap in AI adoption, and is it a matter of concern?
One woman who agrees that AI isn’t for her is Michelle Leivars, a London-based business coach, who says that she doesn’t use AI to write for her because she wants to retain her voice and personality.
“Clients have said they booked sessions with me because the copy on my website didn’t feel cookie cutter, and that I was speaking directly to them,” she says. “People who know me have gone onto the website, and said that they can hear me saying the words and they could tell it was me straight away.”
Moreover, Hayley Bystram, also based in London, has not been tempted to save time by using AI. Founder of matchmaking agency, Bowes-Lyon Partnership, Mr Bystram chooses to meet her clients face-to-face to hand pair them with like-minded others, with no algorithm involved.
“The place where we could use something such as ChatGPT is in our carefully crafted member profiles. which can take up to half a day to create,” she says. “But for me, it would take the soul and the personalisation out of the process, and it feels like it’s cheating, so we carry on doing it the long-winded way.”
For Alexandra Coward, a business strategist based in Paisley, Scotland, using AI for content generation is just “heavy photoshopping”.
She is also worried about the growing trend of people using AI to create images “that make them look the slimmest, youngest and hippest versions of themselves”.
Ms Coward adds: “We’re moving towards a space where not only will your clients not recognise you in person, you won’t recognise you in person.”
Uncovering the Gender Disparity in AI
All of these aforementioned reasons certainly seem valid for keeping one’s distance from AI. But AI expert Jodie Cook says there exist deeper, more ingrained factors contributing to women’s relatively lower adoption of the technology compared to men.
“STEM fields have traditionally been dominated by males,” says Ms Cook, founder of Coachvox.ai, an app that allows business leaders to create AI clones of themselves.
“The current trend in the adoption of AI tools appears to mirror this disparity, as the skills required for AI are rooted in STEM disciplines.”
To take one example, in the UK, just 24% of the workforce across the STEM sectors are female. Consequently, Mr Cook explains that: “women may feel less confident using AI tools”.
“Even though many tools don’t require technical proficiency, if more women don’t view themselves as technically skilled, they might not experiment with them.
“And AI also still feels like science fiction. In the media and popular culture, science fiction tends to be marketed at men”, she finished.
To move forward from this trend, Ms Cook thinks we should try to encourage women both to use and work in AI: “As the industry grows, we definitely don’t want to see a widening gap between the genders.”
Adding to this point, psychologist Lee Chambers says that typically female thinking and behaviour may be holding some women back from embracing AI.
“It’s the confidence gap – women tend to want to have a high level of competence in something before they start using it, ” he says. “Whereas men tend to be happy to go into something without much competence.”
Mr Chambers also says that women may fear having their abilities questioned if they use AI tools.
“Women are more likely to be accused of not being competent, so they have to emphasise their credentials more to demonstrate their subject matter expertise in a particular field,” he says.
“There could be this feeling that if people know that you, as a woman, use AI, it’s suggesting that you might not be as qualified as you are.
“Women are already discredited, and have their ideas taken by men and passed off as their own, so having people knowing that you use an AI might also play into that narrative that you’re not qualified enough. It’s just another thing that’s debasing your skills, your competence, your value.”
So, is this a question of trying to gain more confidence in AI or should we take a leaf out of Harriet Kelsall’s book, and “value authenticity and human creativity” instead?