Coda AI is such a cool feature. You give it a prompt, and it does some magical stuff.
The big promise of AI is often delivered in anticipatory user experiences; apps that essentially live a few moments in the future (Matt Webb). AI can allow technologies to operate in the very near future, but that’s only our perception. More accurately, we are simply hacking the fact that our brains live in the recent past — our conscious experience is somewhere between milliseconds to tenths-of-seconds behind the unconscious sensory edge of our nervous systems.
This value, however a cerebral hack it may be, is based on the prompt, the string that is attached to this grand promise of artificial general intelligence.
Effective prompts are sometimes simple, but more often, they are not. Let’s take a simple one that falls into the latter category.
What is (1 + 2) plus (3 * 10) divided by 2?
Coda AI says this is the answer:
That’s wrong. Let’s refresh and see what happens.
Better? Nope. What’s happening here?
LLMs act before they think.
This is especially the case with mathematics and word problems. The trick is to get the LLM to think before it acts. The right answer, of course, is 16.5 and here’s how to encourage the LLM to think before it acts. This is achieved by providing a learner example; give it an example that steps it through the logic you want it to follow.
The first reaction you have is - this is not a valid test because I literally gave the AI the answer in my example. Try it with different numbers.
Different equations can be supported if (and only if) you provide additional examples that express greater complexities.
While this is a simple math problem, the key takeaway is the prompt example; it literally tells the AI to step through the logic.
First, do this... Next, do that... Finally, do this...
This approach applies to many prompt scenarios. Here’s an example.
First, remember the original text. Original text: Next, create a list of key points from the original text. Example: Prompt: ‘I’m calling for three things - transparency, accountability, and leadership.’ Key points: 1. Transparency 2. Accountability 3. Leadership Prompt: original text Key points: Next, display the original text. Do not show the label ‘Original text:’. Next, display the key points. Do not show the label ‘Key points:’.
As early adopters of AI, we have grand visions of escalating our work output. There’s no shortage of media outlets and multi-message Twitter posts that have convinced the masses that AI makes digital work a breeze. Reality check: it doesn’t.
ChatGPT and Coda AI users typically experience poor results because successful prompts are not as easy to create as you first imagine. How hard can it be, right? It’s just words, eh? The reality is that it is both hard and complex depending on the AI objective.
Two obvious aspects of prompt development are working against us.
- Prompt Construction - most of us “wing” it when building prompts.
- Prompt Repeatability - most of us are inclined to build AI prompts from scratch every time.
Getting these two dimensions right for any Coda solution takes patience, new knowledge, and a little luck. I assert that …
The vast productivity benefits of AI are initially offset and possibly entirely overshadowed by the corrosive effects of learning how to construct prompts that work to your benefit.