elderly woman basket weaving

Telling AI what to do – what should we call it?

As we scramble to understand what generative AI tools mean for us, language to describe this new world is emerging. Common coinage is being created and I am nervous that it will be left to engineers again. I hope for greater elegance of phrasing.

During the early days of the web, clunky metaphors arrived. “Surfing” as a descriptor for using a browser (particularly in the 1990s) is bizarre. Pesky Californians. Surfing the web even more awkward. Crawling the web is sound, but that was left for machines to do with the strong hint of arachnophobia. This is to say nothing of the mangled terminology of Agile with it’s T-shirt sizing, artefacts and sprints. What an unholy, illiterate mess. We can do so much better.

So what to call what we are now going with these AI gizmos?

Prompt engineering: this does not work for me. Engineering is the act of being an engineer. There are rules and maths and deep study to earn the title. The vast majority of us are prompt tinkering and a mighty distance from this height. Does sound cool though. I wonder if there is the echo of the software patriarchy at play here?

Prompt creation: This is also a cool phrasing. We are writing something new as we ask ChatGPT and its ilk to go and do things for us. Creativity feels a bit rich though. My mind turns to literature and poetry. That stretches the metaphor too far for comfort and back to pomp.

Prompt crafting: Craft, in my calibration, is not quite at the height of art. There is not the same claim of creativity. There is skill and judgement at play, for sure, but we are in more practical territory. We are making things to be used. A closer fit.

Prompt writing: This is probably the best and cleanest description. It lacks the glamour and ego stroking, however, and will not gain traction. Journalists need something with more fizz. This is not it.

My vote is for prompt crafting. Anyone can have a go. It takes skills, knowledge and practice. Doing it well deserves applause and will be highly values. It feels more practical and every day, which is what these tools are rapidly becoming. What would you call at?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basket_weaving_,_photo_2.jpg

Leave a Reply