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Tag: ChatGPT

Change Has Changed – Your Guide to Adapting

Originally published on CUInsight.com

2016 feels like a long time ago, right? Towards the end of that year, I wrote about how, unlike the way our brains work, change doesn’t happen linearly. Sidestepping any math, this means people are unprepared for the realities of today, never mind tomorrow.

Sadly, few leaders (elected or otherwise) understand this concept. But you, my dear reader and honorary geek, can!

Linear Change

Measuring Tape on Wood
One number after the last. No surprise jumps.

We think in a line. A → B → C and so on. The Industrial Revolution led to mechanical advances which moved forward greatly during (and because of) the World Wars, and this spawned the modern technological age. Transistors launched a million possibilities, and we live in that digital era.

The Small Screen Got Bigger (And Crisper)

Depending on your generation, you grew up with a B&W or color TV available in some fashion. Then came VCRs (or DVD players), along with cable/satellite boxes, and, by then, you might go for a snazzy HD TV. You’re living in the future! A future where you can finally make out the hockey puck!

A few more years passed and 3D was all the rage (and then it wasn’t), only to be replaced by 4K and HDR. For most of us, that’s where we are today (end of 2023). A lot of change, but not difficult to grasp. Screens got incrementally better, with some jumps larger than others.

Banking Goes Digital

During this same timeframe, banking has remained pretty similar. People can have a checking (share draft) and savings (share) account, along with special accounts like CDs, plus lending products. However, the act of interacting with these services couldn’t be more different.

First, there was online banking, which revolutionized accessing account details. In the early days, it was mainly a ledger that supported transfers. The web portal was akin to walking into a branch, only, paper and people-less, and open 24/7 (phone banking is a thing, but it’s a pain).

Mobile Check Deposit
The innovation that put change on an exponential path.

Then, we got what I consider the biggest banking innovation of the modern era: Mobile check deposit. This fundamentally changed how you interact with your banking institution, and eliminated the need for many to ever visit a branch. It also laid the “mindshare” groundwork for future P2P services.

Which brings us into the smartphone era with services like Zelle (bank-owned), Venmo (private company), Apple Cash, Cash App, etc. At this point, if you can’t do something on your phone (in the app or other simple path), and there’s no regulatory prohibition, why not?

These are massive changes, but they’re still pretty much linear. One thing led to the next. Many of us pushed credit unions for years to truly take on digital transformation strategies (that particular ship has sailed). Most are still woefully behind.

It’s time for a new approach. One that aligns with how the world is changing today.

Exponential (or Logarithmic) Change

Exponential Growth Dial

Spoiler: Change has always been exponential, it’s just that the rate was slow enough that we perceived it as linear.

Transistors? While their number (used to) double every 18-24 months (Moore’s Law), the scales in which they existed were shrinking dramatically. There’s a bit of marketing-speak involved, but modern chips have components less than 10nm across (a silicon atom is 0.2nm)!

Climate change, biodiversity, sea level rise, and other environmental issues are also seeing an increased rate of change. In other words, extreme weather is getting both more extreme and more common. Rising seas of last century are now coming up faster. Species loss is increasing.

The challenge today is the rate of change…of change.

It’s Not Just Tech

When we think of change, it’s easy to gravitate towards technology. Its forward march highlights the concept in tangible ways. Your really old phone was hanging on a wall. Your current one is a glass slab in your pocket that vastly outperforms the Apollo moon landers…and Mission Control.

It’s true, tech has revolutionized society and how we interact. At this point, you’re probably expecting me to dive into “AI” and chatbots. I could, but there’s so much already written, and frankly, I think what I already wrote about them explains their issues (and potential) just fine.

Change in Environment and Society

While technology lets us put our finger on specific change, it’s the more abstract stuff that creates real challenges.

The entire concept of “culture wars”, outlawing discussion of systemic racial inequities, and taking away women’s rights…each of these are symptoms of parts of society encountering exponential change and not knowing how to cope. Fear leads to poor choices (and groups taking advantage of that).

So…Banking?

Your credit union isn’t immune to these changes. And it’s not just implementing more streamlined LOS platforms or mobile apps. A credit union is made of its members, and those are just people…people who are facing a rapidly (and more rapidly) changing world.

Credit unions have a future in embracing their past. Sure, you still gotta improve your tech stack (look forward rather than just at today’s expectations). But it’s about growing into the credit union you could be. Change will continue to occur; evolve your systems and processes, retain your culture.

Turns out, I went into this back in 2018. And dove deep into the concept in 2020 with a focus on credit union’s role in society. Thus, I inadvertently proved my point that lots may evolve but the core principles should remain true. Didn’t Edward Filene once say “keep purpose constant”?

The Times They Are A Changin’

Time and Change
It’s easy to feel spun around as…the times are a changin’.

Change will continue at an increasing rate, and don’t feel bad if it seems overwhelming. It is. But stay focused on the things that matter: Fair treatment of all peoples (in rights and respect) and our shared planet, plus the prosperity of society (across a wide range of definitions).

Sidenote: That sentence is pulled from our company’s original mission statement in 2008. We strive to “keep purpose constant”.

Oh, and AI platforms will play a role in all of this (the 2023 word of the year is “hallucinate”, for when these systems confidently make stuff up). That role will definitely be to further mix up the status quo. I’m confident you will also find uses to improve member financial wellness!

And here you are, 1000 words in, better understanding and prepared for the changing change of the world (or just with your head spinning)! It’s pervasive across all areas, so keep an eye out for it, as well as for people who are using the uncertainty this change brings to advance their own agendas.

Embrace openness and curiosity over fear. Credit unions were built to make the world a better place, one member at a time. Let’s do all we can to ensure change always leans towards kindness and prosperity for all.

AI Writing Tools: The Coolest…Until They Aren’t

Originally published on CUInsight.

Can you feel it? We’re in a bubble, and it is expanding rapidly. What makes up this enveloping sphere?

AI writing tools. ChatGPT-powered chatbots.

Incredible technology, right? It’s sci-fi, made real! Finally, we have the Enterprise’s computer or HAL…hmm, bad example.

These are impressive tools. But it’s important to recognize what they are…and what they aren’t. Despite seeming incredibly smart at times, these large language models (LLMs) are exceedingly dumb. They’re not AI by any means (it’s a pop term which has now lost most of its previous meaning).

At their core, they are advanced autocorrect and autofill platforms. Yet that can still be useful. I’ll get to how this impacts credit unions and your members, but first, we have to understand what these systems really are. Lots of hype, not enough data.

Sidenote: I am not going into the image generation models here. They exist, they probably have more downsides than benefits, and I make fun little graphics for blog posts with them. I’m also not including their enormous energy needs, which isn’t great.

Better. Good enough?

Keyboard Autocomplete

Take out your phone (if you’re not already using it now). Start writing an email. Notice how it suggests the next word above your keyboard? If you keep tapping an option, you’ll eventually get a run-on sentence that might, or might not, be total gibberish. (iOS 17 will improve that dramatically)

This is how ChatGPT, Bard, or anything based on them works, too. It predicts the next word based on what has already been output. “But Joe, not only did you have a whole interview with ChatGPT, it can do all sorts of complicated things!”

You’re right. And there’s absolutely a place for this technology. We just need to recognize where it does and does not fit.

What makes sense for a ChatGPT-type platform:

  • Organizing tasks
  • Laying out a social media or blogging schedule
  • Adopting a certain tone in a piece
  • Helping write a first draft of code, formulas, or other content
  • Creating frameworks for replicated processes
  • Diving into a topic you’re already familiar
  • Member interactions that are a step above the 1st generation chatbots, but worse than a person

Here’s what you should not rely on these systems to do:

  • Replace copywriters (or anyone, really)
  • Copy/paste content from it for use in any context not explicitly presented as “ChatGPT-generated”
  • Give you answers without having other sources available
  • Get medical advice
  • Use in legal arguments (unless you want to forever be known as the lawyer who presented made-up cases in front of a judge)

Hallucinations: On being wrong

AI Hallucinations
“Trippy” for computers can mean “make stuff up”

My greatest concern with these platforms is that they’re extremely convincing and certain. I’ve had conversations where it assures me the answer is correct…even when I know it is wrong. Gaslighting to the extreme. This ranged from math questions to factual challenges.

In the legal arguments referenced above, ChatGPT convincingly made up cases which never happened. Why? How?

Remember what it is: An autofill system.

The platform recognized how case records look, how they’re formatted, even trends in how they are resolved. Then, it made up its own to fit that mold. They seemed convincing, because to even trained eyes, they looked like how real case citations should appear.

There’s no motivation towards being “right” or “wrong” with a LLM. The goal of the system is to generate the next word, not fact-check itself. Thus, the tech industry came up with a harmless-sounding term for it: Hallucinations.

In other words, when your chatbot hallucinates, it’s creating new “facts” to fit the response. Lying, you could say, but that infers intent. Once again, a chatbot has no “desire” to be factual or not, only provide a response that seems appropriate.

Sidenote: Interestingly, “hallucinate” was originally a good thing, showing how the chatbot could “imagine” itself as a programming language or other platform. The original definition had nothing to do with making stuff up.

Bias

Bias Scales
Facts aren’t always facts here.

There’s also a danger of bias. While questions about Stalin mention the massive loss of life and human rights violations, it does not for current world leaders. Once again, it’s because the responses are created from content accessible online.

If certain people, policies, or ideas are associated with a lot of disinformation or propaganda, you can bet it will be reflected in answers. Without context or note. What exists, persists.

The Growing Bubble

Expanding Bubbles

Ok, with some background, we can now go back to the bubble. You have noticed just how fast ChatGPT became, well, everywhere. And every tech company (besides Apple) has thrown their shirt into the LLM game as well.

Microsoft has shoved ChatGPT (they invested billions) into Bing search. Google has Bard and is also testing “Search Generative Experience”. Nearly every smaller tech company I know is launching an “AI feature” of some kind, be it Canva, ActiveCampaign, Spark, Adobe, Zoom, and many more.

When a single product concept expands this quickly, across that many industries, I see a bubble. Eventually, interest will stagnate, people will tire of the “convenience”, and these generative chat systems will settle into a more permanent, and subtle, part of our tech world.

I hope.

Of course, the companies profiting from them want this bubble to grow forever.

Google wants to replace web links, keeping you on their sites (and seeing their ads, if you’re not using an adblocker). Nvidia, the graphics card maker powering many of these systems, is keen for it to grow, as they get to sell more units, following the crypto crash (using their cards).

Little players don’t want to seem laggards, so they launch things as well. They’re typically generators for writing or content layout. If these help your overworked marketing team, awesome.

The rush to fake “AI” is a bubble, and running too fast has consequences. Take care with anything you read, see, or hear. You can be sure unscrupulous actors will be using these tools to further drive their agendas and create the illusion of fact or reality.

Your Credit Union

Person and Robot Doing Work at Desk
Work together to unleash your creativity!

We’re here, as promised.

Even after all these cautions, for any credit union not yet using these LLM platforms, I’d still ask, “why not?” Their use cases are substantial, so long as you do not share your member or internal information with them (most systems add that data to the model).

To me, it’s the mundane, repetitive tasks where these systems shine. Need to figure out Excel formulas for some data calculation? Ask (then check to make sure they really do what it says). Want a marketing strategy for a promotion with a rock ‘n roll flair? Describe it.

If you have a blog that suffers from a lack of content, and you have no desire to create quality human-generated material for it, guess what? Your neighborhood LLM can help. Plan out a post schedule, get topic suggestions, and then draft out ideas.

My recommendation would be to create better, human-written, more relevant, and impactful articles, but if that’s not an option, ChatGPT is there.

Human or ChatGPT?

I read a lot of content in our industry. Not all pieces are stellar. Sometimes, on the particularly terrible ones (that I know were written by a human), I create a short prompt for ChatGPT to replicate. Then, I send both results to a friend to play our game: Human or ChatGPT?

Over half the time, we agree the GPT one was a much better article, even if we could recognize some of the LLM traits.

For any institution using staff resources to write these posts, I ask: When a free chat system can do better, why would your members care?

Here’s what you should do

Zooming in On AI Computer
Watch for progress!

Keep a close eye on ChatGPT and other LLMs. Watch the field to see progress, as well as challenges. Understand the benefits and downsides. Talk to your staff to learn if and how they are using them in their own life.

Through your day, make a point of asking one of these writing tools to compose what you have to do next. Get better at clarifying your request to the system (Side-effect: You get better at explaining what you want!). Compare what it creates to what you made.

If it’s as good or better, with no concern of “hallucinations”, use it moving forward!

I’ve commented on LinkedIn how we will eventually get to a point where so much content is generated that the new trendy thing will be to have a human make it! Bubbles and cycles.

Remember, like every other new technology, LLM chatbots are tools. A hammer can be used to bang in a nail or hit someone over the head. It’s up to the owner to decide the use-case. Take the same approach with these. Also please do not hit anyone over the head.

And to send us off, here’s a ditty from ChatGPT:

In the realm of finance’s digital tide,

Credit unions embrace tech as their guide.

With ChatGPT’s aid, they forge a new way,

Empowering members, trust paving the day.

Together they thrive, on innovation they ride.

ChatGPT

Solving the “Junk Fees” Issue with ChatGPT

What’s a “junk fee”? Simply put, it’s any charge beyond what you’ve agreed or expected to pay for a product or service. For a credit card, it can be a late fee. For debit, an overdraft or NSF fee. For a hotel, a “resort fee” slapped on the bill when you check out.

I didn’t come up with the phrase. That goes to the CFPB, or Senator Elizabeth Warren. Or a nameless intern with a knack for catchy terms.

Either way, it’s in the national discussion. The CFPB has an entire section dedicated to Junk Fees across a range of industries. They have things to say about overdraft fees, no doubt. I mean, we do agree on that.

President Biden Tweet About Junk Fees
POTUS attention

NAFCU took a different position, claiming that the current arrangement is fine and to let credit unions handle it. They’ll come up with the best strategy for their members and institution, as their press release explains.

So that’s one big topic. And the CFPB isn’t stopping at overdraft.

In early February 2023, they issued new guidance for credit card late fee structures. Naturally, the credit union industry had harsh words in response.

On a totally different topic, a certain conversational AI stole the spotlight, reaching 100 million users faster than any platform ever. ChatGPT single-handedly broke education, thought-leadership, and programming…or so the headlines would have you believe.

While it’s an amazing system, it’s also not going to steal everyone’s job, yet. However, it does open up an opportunity to have conversations which let us see different perspectives and expand our own critical thinking.

So as if I were assembling my first lightsaber, I elegantly smooshed (the Jedi term) these topics together.

Below is an unedited discussion on the “junk fees” topic between myself and ChatGPT, taking the role of a credit union executive and lobbyist who isn’t quite so keen on simply eliminating them.

Geek notes: You may notice it totally missed my point about CDFI (maybe I shouldn’t have written it out), but I do believe this is a direction worth pursuing. Reading through, I realize I should have asked for examples. Oh well, next time.

I was also surprised how it eventually started getting “persuaded” to my position, agreeing that junk fees should go, but not on how. I wonder…is this how a person may think, too?

Finally, I asked it to summarize it up in a way a geek would love. Here’s the gem we got:

“Together we can boldly go where no credit union has gone before, providing affordable and accessible financial services.”

ChatGPT

Image credits: DALL-E 2 AI image generator

Eliminating Junk Fees: A Human/AI Discussion

AI Chatting with Geek - DALL-E
No way I’m the “tall” one in this situation. Oh, am I the AI?

Joe

The concept of “junk fees” is in financial news regularly now. With the CFPB leading the charge against a range of punitive fee structures, it’s a matter of time before new rules go in place.

Even the President is in support of eliminating junk fees, as he posts about it often. As a member of the credit union community, I agree with this stance. The poorest members shouldn’t be the ones most impacted by the highest fees on a range of banking services.

Income can still be generated through value, rather than off those getting stuck with late payments and other charges.

Knowing my stance, take the position as a lifelong credit union executive and lobbyist who is against these policies.

They have a range of good arguments why these ideas are not beneficial for small credit unions, their members, or the industry as a whole (I don’t know what they are). With you roleplaying as that executive, let us engage in a reasoned discussion on the topic.

You go first and I will respond.

ChatGPT

As a credit union executive and lobbyist, I strongly believe that the concept of junk fees and the push to eliminate them is misguided and harmful to the credit union industry.

Small credit unions, in particular, rely on these fees as a source of revenue. Without them, we will have to resort to other measures to generate income, such as increasing interest rates, decreasing services, and even closing down branches. This will have a negative impact on our members, who will have fewer options and face higher costs.

Moreover, these junk fees are not inherently bad. They serve as a deterrent for late payments and other harmful financial practices. Without these fees, we risk encouraging irresponsible behavior that will harm both the credit union and its members.

Additionally, the proposed regulations are too broad and will harm the entire credit union industry. They will stifle innovation and growth, limit our ability to adapt to changing market conditions, and increase compliance costs.

In conclusion, the push to eliminate junk fees is misguided and harmful to the credit union industry and its members. We must resist this push and fight for a regulatory framework that allows us to continue serving our members effectively and efficiently.

Joe

I appreciate your position on the issue. On the point of small credit unions needing this fee revenue, I agree that we must find ways to help them remain viable in an ever more challenging financial world. And making sure they can continue to serve their members, often people with few or no other traditional banking options, is essential.

However, why are we immediately saying no to something which can help people, rather than using it as an opportunity to seek out new forms of revenue, enhancing how the credit union model works for their members and community?

This can be a springboard for innovation, not a new “write to your representative and say no” issue. I also agree that some fees make sense to discourage irresponsible financial behavior.

However, a number of large banks and even other credit unions have taken a no-fee approach, with negligible change in member practices.

Instead of using a stick, let’s devise a carrot to incentivize and empower healthier financial practices.

Then, we’re educating as well as assisting.

Whenever regulations are proposed, a standard refrain is that they are too broad and will stifle growth. To the contrary, such rules would only put limits on what isn’t allowed, not telling anyone you cannot innovate.

In fact, this should be taken as a golden ticket to put our thinking caps on and innovate our way out of the challenges faced. We can watch as new rules are implemented and confidently tell members and non-members, “credit unions don’t believe in such junk fees, and we work every day to help build our members and communities.

Financial wellness is at the core of our being, so while we may not always agree on the regulatory path, we will always be at the front of innovation for finding ways to provide banking opportunities to every American.

ChatGPT

I understand your perspective and I agree that seeking out new forms of revenue and enhancing the credit union model is important. However, the reality is that change doesn’t happen overnight, and the sudden elimination of junk fees could be devastating for some credit unions.

We need to be proactive in finding new sources of income, but it’s not something that can be done overnight without causing harm.

I also agree that we should focus on financial wellness and education for our members, and I commend the idea of incentivizing healthy financial practices. However, this needs to be done in a way that is sustainable for the credit union and its members, without relying on junk fees.

With regards to regulations, I do believe that too many regulations can stifle growth, especially for small credit unions that don’t have the resources to comply with them. The key is to find a balance between protecting consumers and allowing credit unions to serve their members effectively.

Ultimately, I believe that credit unions should strive to provide affordable and accessible financial services to their members. Junk fees may not be the ideal solution, but they are a reality for many credit unions, and eliminating them without a comprehensive plan for sustainability could have negative consequences.

We need to work together to find a better way to serve our members and communities while remaining financially viable.

Joe

Change does not happen overnight, which means we can find a compromise on the rule making as well. How would you feel about rules that take effect over a period of time, giving credit unions, especially smaller ones, opportunity to find those new sources of income?

We can also take a look at the Community Development Financial Institution program to see how it can play a role in assisting the transition for more highly affected credit unions.

In the meantime, members can benefit from reduced costs. This can also be supported by education campaigns for members to help them best understand how to avoid or reduce fees incurred.

At the same time, making fee structures clear can reduce expenses in collection and placement of them in the credit union. Financial wellness is a valuable part of the efforts, as we discussed and agreed upon.

However, you cannot educate everyone out of challenging financial situations.

Thus, we should look to larger social issues and ensure that credit unions have a leading role in helping address the impacts of socioeconomic pressures on affected populations.

Yes, we must find the balance for regulations to be effective in their goal and also not negatively impact credit unions. I believe we can do this while making sure credit unions are shining examples of affordable and accessible financial services.

Junk fees don’t have to be part of that future, even if it takes some time to get there.

ChatGPT

I absolutely agree with you on the importance of finding a compromise on the rule making, especially one that takes effect over time.

This would give credit unions, especially the smaller ones, an opportunity to adjust and find new sources of income. The Community Development Financial Institution program is definitely worth exploring as well.

In addition, the education campaigns are essential to help members better understand the fee structures and how to avoid or reduce fees incurred. Making fee structures clear can also reduce expenses in collection and placement of them in the credit union.

I also agree that credit unions should have a leading role in addressing the impacts of socioeconomic pressures on affected populations. Providing financial wellness and education to our members is important, but we must also recognize that many are facing larger social issues that impact their financial stability.

Overall, I believe that with cooperation and collaboration, we can find a balance between regulations that are effective in their goal and do not negatively impact credit unions.

Our goal should be to continue providing affordable and accessible financial services to all members, without relying on junk fees. We can work together to build a better future for credit unions and their members.

Joe

It appears we have more to agree about than disagree! I hope we can work together to deliver on the mission of “people helping people”, building financial wellness and empowerment for millions. While still ensuring credit unions can keep the lights on.

Thank you for engaging in this discussion.

ChatGPT

I completely agree. It’s always great to have a productive and respectful discussion, especially on an issue as important as this. I believe that by working together, we can deliver on the mission of “people helping people” and build a better future for credit unions and their members.

Thank you for taking the time to discuss this issue with me. Let’s keep this dialogue going and continue to work towards a solution that benefits everyone.

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