Prometheus brought fire (metaphorically, knowledge about how to do stuff) to humanity, making him a mythical hero.

Lucifer (light-bringer) brought knowledge (of good and evil, no less), to humanity, earning him the mantle of most villainous of all our mythical villains.

Go figure.

Now we have ChatGPT which, in case you’ve been living in a cave the past few months and missed all the excitement, seems to be passing the Turing, Prometheus, and Lucifer tests while making the whole notion of knowledge obsolete.

You can ask ChatGPT a question and it will generate an answer that reads like something a real, live human being might have written [Turing].

And just like dealing with real, live human beings you’d have no way of knowing whether the answer was … what’s the word I’m looking for? … help me out, ChatGPT … oh, yeah, that’s the word … “right” [Prometheus] or false [Lucifer].

And a disclaimer: I’m not going to try to differentiate between what ChatGPT and allied AI technologies are capable of as of this writing from what they’ll obviously and quickly evolve into.

Quite the opposite – what follows is both speculative and, I think, inevitable, in a short enough planning window that we need to start thinking about the ramifications right now. Here are the harbingers:

Siri and Watson: When Apple introduced Siri, its mistakes were amusing but its potential was clear – technology capable of understanding a question, sifting through information sources to figure out the answer, and expressing the answer in an easily understood voice.

Watson won Jeopardy the same way.

The sophistication of research-capable AIs will only continue to improve, especially the sifting-through-data-sources algorithms.

Synthesizers: It’s one thing to engage in research to find the answer to a question. It’s quite another to be told what the right answer is and formulate a plausible argument for it.

Trust me on this – as a professional management consultant I’ve lost track of how often a client has told me the answer they want and asked me to find it.

So there’s no reason to figure an AI, armed with techniques for cherry-picking some data and forging the rest, might resist the temptation. Because while I’ve read quite a lot about where AI is going and how it’s evolving, I’ve read of no research into the development of an Ethics Engine or, its close cousin, an integrity API.

Deep fakes: Imagine a deep-faked TED Talk whose presenter doesn’t actually exist here in what we optimistically call the “real world” but that speaks and gestures in ways that push our this-person-is-an-authority-on-the-subject buttons to persuade us that a purely falsified answer is, in fact, how things are.

Or, even more unsavory, imagine the possibilities for character assassination to be had by pasting a political opponent’s or business rival’s face onto … well, I’ll leave the possibilities as an exercise for the reader.

Persuasion: Among the algorithms we can count on will be several that engage in meme promotion – that know how to disseminate an idea so as to maximize the number of people who encounter and believe it.

Recursion: It’s loop-closing time – you ask your helpful AI a question (we’ll name it “Keejer” – I trust the etymology isn’t too mysterious?) “Hey, Keejer, how old is the universe?”

Keejer searches and sifts through what’s available on the subject, synthesizes the answer (by averaging the values it finds, be they theological or astrophysical), and writes a persuasive essay presenting its findings – that our universe is 67,455 years old.

But, many of the sources Keejer discovers are falsifications created and promoted by highly persuasive AIs, and Keejer lacks a skepticism algorithm.

And so Keejer gives you the wrong answer. Worse, Keejer’s analysis is added to the Internet’s meme stack to further mislead the next research AI.

Bob’s last word: Science fictioneers, writing about dangerous robots and AIs, gravitate to Skynet scenarios, where androids engage in murderous rampages to exterminate humanity.

The unexplored territory – rogue ‘bots attempting to wipe out reality itself – hasn’t received the same attention.

But putting the literary dimension of the problem aside, it’s time to put as much R&D into  Artificial Skepticism as we’ve put into AI itself.

There is a precedent: Starting in the very early days of PCs, as malicious actors started to push computer viruses out onto the hard drives of the world, a whole anti-malware industry came into being.

It’s time we all recognize that disinformation is a form of malware that deserves just as much attention.

Bob’s sales pitch: Not for anything of mine this time, but for a brilliant piece everyone on earth ought to read. It’s titled “40 Useful Concepts You Should Know,” by someone who goes by the handle “Gurwinder.”

All 40 concepts are useful, and you should review them all.

On’s CIO Survival Guide: Brilliance: The CIO’s most seductive career-limiting trait.” It’s about why, for CIOs, brokering great ideas is better than having them.

Draw a Venn diagram. Label one of the circles “What I’m good at.” Label the next “What I enjoy doing.” The third reads, “What someone will pay me to do.

Where the three intersect? That’s your career, if you want one. It’s also the core  framework hiring managers have in the backs of their minds when trying to staff their organizations.

They’re accustomed to hiring employees. They bring in contractors – independent workers, also known as members of the gig economy – for situations that call for individuals with a well-defined “sack o’ skills” for a finite duration.

Contractors are, that is, members of the workforce who have decided they won’t scratch their circle #2 itches through their careers. Their numbers appear to be increasing, very likely as an offset to those who prefer the traditional employment/career approach to earning a living.

Managers generally think of their organization as a social construct. When staffing a role, hiring an employee is their default, and for good reason. They want someone who will do more than just a defined body of work. Beyond that they want people who will pitch in to help the society function smoothly, who will provide knowledge and continuity, who find this dynamic desirable, and whose attitudes and approaches are compatible with the business culture.

Bringing in a contractor is, for most open positions, Plan B.

Which is unfortunate for hiring managers right now. The trend appears to be that if they want enough people to get the organization’s work done they’re going to have to make more use of contractors … and not only contractors but also employees who have no interest in pursuing a career, just an honest day’s pay in exchange for their honest day’s work – who want jobs, not careers.

A different approach to staffing to what we’ve all become accustomed to is evolving, one that’s more transactional and less interpersonal. Culture will be less of a force because contractors will spend less time acculturating than employees; also, the ratio of time working independently than in the team situations where culture matters most is steadily increasing.

In some respects it will be more expensive. Contractor turnover will be higher than employee turnover because that’s built into how the relationship is defined. The ratio of onboarding time to productive time will increase.

Managers who don’t want to head down this road do have an alternative: They can compete for those members of the workforce who don’t want to become independent. The law of supply and demand suggests that this approach will cost more. It will also mean thinking through how to make the work environment as desirable as possible.

One more factor, as if one was needed: The security ramifications of a more transient workforce are significant.

Bob’s last word: “Digital” refers to changes in a company’s marketplace that call for changes in a company’s business strategy in response. Digital is all about products and customer relationships.

The current restructuring of traditional staffing practices is the result of digitization, the rise of the remote worker digital technologies have enabled, and COVID-19, which accelerated it all. It’s the next digital marketplace transformation to which businesses must adapt, only this time the marketplace in question is the one that trades in labor.

Adapting to this nascent transformation of the employment marketplace is less familiar territory, but it isn’t different in principle. Strategists have always had to think in terms of where their organizations fit into an overall business ecosystem. Staffing has always been part of this overall ecosystem. It’s just that few business leaders, not to mention those of us who engage in punditry and futurism … anticipated how quickly and dramatically this ecosystem would morph.

Bob’s sales pitch: Ten years ago, when I published Keep the Joint Running: A Manifesto for 21st Century IT, “Digital” was still an adjective, “everybody knew” the rest of the business was IT’s internal customer, and “best practice” was a phrase people tossed around when they had nothing better to say.

Oh, well. You can’t win ‘em all. But even though Digital has been noun-ified, this book’s 13 principles for leading an effective IT organization are as relevant as the day the book was published.