It only takes a spark. Someone saying ‘let’s all get together for coffee’ or ‘anyone in Williamsburg want to meet up?’ But so often it doesn’t happen. People are busy. It takes guts to put yourself out there — what if no one says ‘yes’? The easier option is to say nothing at all.
Building a vibrant community takes effort, but isn’t complicated. Yet few people take the plunge to start a community, and even fewer invest the time to make a community great. But when they do, magic happens. Relationships blossom. Lives are transformed. People are happier. We are community-driven (tribal) beings — community is innate in us.
To our detriment, traditional community participation has been in decline for many years. The lack of human connection and community in society has contributed to growing isolation and loneliness, particularly among the younger generations. While online communities can be a source of solace and connection, the negative and toxic aspects of incumbent platforms make it difficult to cultivate real, meaningful relationships.
Google’s two-decade monopoly on Search is under threat by a startup, OpenAI. I believe Generative AI will also catalyze a shift to a new paradigm in social networking. One that redirects attention toward authentic communities centered around genuine human interactions. A generative AI bot, like ChatGPT or Bard, will play a key role in facilitating this change.
Imagine you’re a budding guitarist and you’re invited to join an online community of other musicians. The community is led by one of your favorite guitarists — let’s call her Skyler. Upon entering the community you are greeted by a bot. But this is no ordinary bot – Skylar has named it ‘Stars’ and given it a funky avatar. It even speaks to you with similar language Skylar might use. Stars welcomes you into the community and shows you around. It feels almost like Skyler is showing you around herself.
Stars asks whether you’d like to be paired up with a buddy in the community to help you get started. You go along with it and Stars introduces you to another member who lives nearby and is at the same guitar level. Pretty soon you’re grabbing coffee together.
After a while Stars reaches out and says it’s organizing a weekly local jam session and invites you to join. You accept the invitation and Stars kicks off a group chat with 15 people from your local area. The bot facilitates calendar entries and who brings what to each jam session.
After your first jam session Skyler chimes in on the group chat. And when she’s in town a few months later she even joins one in-person. Everyone in the group is pretty chuffed.
Over time, Stars organizes an accountability group so that you keep the practice up, and finds a guitar mentor for you. You’re making amazing friends and your guitar playing is the best it’s ever been.
This may all seem pretty fanciful...if you’d asked me 6 months ago I would have said this type of thing was at least 5 years away. I now believe AI assisted communities will be with us in the near future. The pieces are all there, we just have to put them together.
Upon reading the above, you may conclude that the role of community manager will soon be obsolete. I don’t think that’s the case at all. The community manager will set up the bot, teaching it how to behave and what to cultivate within the community. The bot will free the community manager to focus on steering the culture and conversation of the community — driving it toward its purpose.
Below I break down some of the functions a generative AI bot can help with. Note that a lot of this is possible without generative AI, and some without a bot at all. But I believe that generative ai will add a more human-like, natural feel.
There is no way this list is exhaustive — what am I missing?
The genie is out of the bottle – the power of generative AI is immense and the potential applications across many facets of work and life are vast. My hope is that we are able to use this new tool to help bridge the gap between virtual and physical relationships and bring people closer together.