I must be getting old. As a younger man, technology was like candy to me. I couldn’t gobble it up fast enough. From personal computers to personal digital assistants (remember the Treo?), from pneumatic controls to digital building control technology, from the modem days of the Internet to today’s web tech and beyond, I was completely enamored.

Then somewhere along the way, the introduction of automatic answering systems began to change things for me. I mean, it’s one thing to figure out better ways to control environments and design buildings, but another thing when a customer calls your company and has to listen to a disembodied voice drone on about numeric choices to get them to the department they need.

When I’m calling a department store or a carpet cleaner with a question or a problem, I want to talk to a real person—someone who can help me and make me feel like I’ve been heard.

Today, automated answering systems are the norm, and I hate it. But what can I do, right?

ChatGPT is an AI Intruder

Now there is this new thing called ChatGPT. It is an artificial intelligence (AI) program that is so brilliant (tongue firmly in cheek) that it writes college-level essays and dissertations that can pass as original work. These AI programs work by culling information from the Internet based on search parameters and other algorithms.

Ethically, this poses a problem concerning copyright laws and plagiarism.

ChatGPT: Good or Bad? Or Ugly???
ChatGPT concept. Business person chatting with a
smart AI. Is this a good thing in the world of HVAC?
Maybe or Maybe not. What do you think?

On the other hand, AI bots open the door to enhancing existing business management technologies or even replacing them. They can eventually replace automated answering systems.

Some of my media colleagues are touting the great potential for AI bots like ChatGPT in the HVAC space. Some see AI as being able to diagnose HVAC issues for customers by asking questions and offering suggestions for solutions.

Does this set off alarms with any contractors who do high-performance HVAC work?

What the Some Contractors are Saying

On the HVAC-Talk.com discussion forum, there is an entire thread on the subject. One comment that struck a chord with me was how ChatGPT answers to HVAC questions can “certainly look convincing to someone not in the industry, but often they (the answers) aren’t actually correct or are only partially correct.”

I understand that no contracting firm will use AI instead of field technicians for testing and diagnosing HVAC system issues. The problem is that the average consumer who encounters this AI bot may take it at face value. Especially now, in the very early days of this technology.

Another comment in that same HVAC-Talk.com discussion says, “If this (ChatGPT) starts to give step-by-step instructions, there will probably be more homeowner visits to the ER, more homes burning down, and even deaths as a result. The world is full of unqualified people who want to save money, but you should always leave ANY mechanical job to a professional!

Many pundits are writing about how ChatGPT and its cousins will change how business is done and become vital to business growth and success in the future. This evolution may be true, but it is still a long way down the road. I get that change, especially technical change, is coming faster than ever before and, as the Star Trek Borg would say, “Resistance is futile.”

But in the High-Performance HVAC Contracting universe, face-to-face contact with customers while conducting system performance testing and diagnosis is vital. Furthermore, regarding automated answering systems, let’s not assimilate all the latest tech too quickly and make it even harder for customers to talk to a live person.