Generative AI in the Design and Construction Industry
At a conference I attended last week, I observed that some people were super excited about recent artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, but others were highly skeptical. The atmosphere buzzed with a mix of anticipation and doubts about the implications of generative AI technology in the design and construction industry. A group of enthusiasts spoke passionately about the limitless possibilities generative AI could offer to enhance productivity across the board in the AEC industry. At the same time, the other group raised critical questions about the potential risks and ethical dilemmas associated with AI technology advancement. In addition, they significantly criticized how dumb and biased the outputs created by generative AI solutions such as Mid-Journey, ChatGPT, or Dall-E are.
This dichotomy of thoughts reminds me of the first bulky mobile phone invention. On the one hand, some people were very excited about having voice calls on the go! On the other hand, others hesitated to embrace this new technology because of its potential health risks such as brain cancer. For example, David Reynard sued the NEC America company in 1993, claiming that his wife’s NEC phone had caused her brain tumor. That said, as time went by, people gradually began to gain confidence in the safety of mobile phones, realizing that the risks of cancer were not as significant as once feared. Today, it’s hard to imagine a world without mobile phones. Today, almost everyone has a sleek smartphone with advanced AI features in their pockets.
Similar to the first bulky mobile phones, new generative AI technologies such as ChatGPT and Mid-Journey are in their infancy. The results of these models can be a bit off and occasionally inaccurate. Despite these shortcomings, their potential is enormous! Unlike the conventional deep learning models built for a specific task, these models are developed to be a foundation for conducting various tasks such as creating art, summarizing documents, answering questions, writing code, and more. ChatGPT and Mid-Journey have made a notable milestone in the history of AI because of their underlying technology, known as “Foundation Models,” deep learning models trained on large-scale amounts of Internet data. I imagine that no one thought such a thing was possible ten years ago!
In this new era, human-AI interaction has become critical to our future success. Some of us who question the implications of these generative AI technologies and worry about the potential loss of human creativity in generating content will eventually discover its usefulness in various fields, from education and healthcare to creative writing and problem-solving, including the design and construction industry. We will gradually learn how to dedicate some of our tedious tasks to AI systems and become more comfortable incorporating them into our daily lives, as we have already done.
Recognizing that AI is a tool that complements and augments our workforce capabilities is crucial. By automating repetitive tasks and providing valuable insights, generative AI would empower our designers, architects, and construction experts to focus more on the creative aspects of their work rather than reinventing the wheel.