I’ll admit I’m getting a little scared of AI (artificial intelligence), both professionally and personally. Even though I encounter it every day as my web browser searches for a research report or to verify a source, autofills an app password, or suggests how to finish a sentence in a Google doc (all helpful and seemingly benign), the latest evolution of machine learning—namely ChatGPT, but in all its current and envisioned forms—leads my overactive imagination to a Terminator-like conclusion when the computers become self-aware and realize humankind has become obsolete and burdensome.
It doesn’t help that business media coverage of the topic estimates AI will eventually (and probably sooner than later) fully replace 25% of current jobs, while two-thirds of all jobs (roughly 300 million) will be affected by AI automation in some way. Those most vulnerable include fairly mundane data entry and background research tasks, but also computer programming and customer-facing services (think self-service grocery checkouts and chat bots on most consumer websites). Also on the list: journalists. For all you know, a bot wrote this column.
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Where AI Serves Home Builders
But what about home builders? While technology has definitely infiltrated the industry, it’s still a mostly human activity—certainly on the jobsite and, I believe, in in-person sales and community engagement. But even for those jobs and others, AI promises to make them easier, creating more time for things only humans can do ... for now.
In a somewhat prescient (for me) column in 2019 titled “The Robots Are Coming!” I encouraged builders to at least respect and pay attention to what AI and other technologies could do for their business. And since the advent of the Bing search engine with ChatGPT earlier this year, I’ve met industry professionals who have embraced and leveraged the latest tech.
For instance, a production home builder is using AI programming to make it far easier and faster for its team and homeowners to search for and find details about warranty coverage, and start-ups such as Arx are using the technology to streamline the process of finding, vetting, and financing land deals from months to mere days, and HomeScribe.ai is helping builders use AI for sales and marketing.
Then there are learning thermostats, drones and robots that inspect construction quality and progress and even help with manual tasks, and augmented reality programs for customized homebuying experiences that are in use by home builders.
These and other applications of AI are helpful, not harmful, and promise to give our industry a much-needed boost in overall productivity that ideally results in lower costs, faster builds, greater profitability, and more attainable prices—a better world for all. Then again, that’s exactly what a clever bot would say.