A group of business owners in Staunton are meeting regularly to discuss the benefits and opportunities of artificial intelligence or AI, and what it can bring to the Shenandoah Valley.
“I think the Shenandoah Valley has a real opportunity to not be left behind,” said Peter Denbigh, founder of the Staunton Innovation Hub.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, humans were given permission to work anywhere.
The Valley “has a great opportunity to embrace [AI]” even if it just stays current with the latest AI technology. Denbigh said AI has the possibility to improve the quality of jobs.
“It’s really going to pay dividends for this Valley.” Leaning into AI is also important for the Valley as a community.
Denbigh started an SIH members-only group for individuals interested in AI.
“These were all folks who have played with AI previously,” he said of the 10 to 12 members who attended a meeting, which included a free exchange of ideas.
Denbigh said the meeting was exciting, but he asked participants to avoid philosophical conversations about AI, such as how AI will affect jobs. Instead, he hoped they would focus on how to use AI in their jobs.
The uses of AI will expand for anyone willing to use it daily. Already, several platforms are available. Denbigh began using ChatGPT about six months ago, but DALL-E and Midjourner also provide AI to help individuals embrace the new technology.
The Hub’s member companies are from a broad range of industries and backgrounds.
“And, you see that reflected in the application of AI,” Denbigh said.
From checking code, streamlining and proofreading drafts to prototypes of ideas and copywright, AI is assisting Hub members with efficiency and performance.
Denbigh said that some also use AI to help generate email replies.
“It’s fun because what I’m saying our members are using [AI] as is a force multiplier,” Denbigh said.
Far from the fear of taking individual jobs, AI is enabling companies to get more done. Denbigh said the challenge with startup companies is not enough energy, time or money.
“So, what AI is helping our members and me is do more with our energy,” Denbigh said.
Denbigh said he began using AI about six months ago to brainstorm ideas and ChatGPT 3.5, which is free, enabled him to make his life more efficient.
“And, we go in directions that maybe I didn’t see,” he said of the AI. “It’s helped put perspectives on things.” He used AI to critique rule sets of games and determine how to make a game’s rules more efficient. “I’ve always been an early adopter of technology.”
Recently, he and his almost 13-year-old son used AI to program a Raspberry Pi, an AI tool that is often used in robotics. Over several evenings, Denbigh and his son developed a website that measures temperature.
“And that was something I’d never been able to do,” Denbigh said.
He encourages others to try ChatGPT and applications of AI in business and personal use.
“I hope that it’s received as a constant acceleration of anything in any industry.”