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Business News/ Companies / Start-ups/  Prompt engineers in vogue on generative AI
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Prompt engineers in vogue on generative AI

These engineers design the way an AI speaks and how users speak to it

Several AI startups have started advertising new job postings for prompt engineers. APPremium
Several AI startups have started advertising new job postings for prompt engineers. AP

BENGALURU: Greg Starling, the head of innovation labs at American startup Tailwind, starts his work days with a brainstorming session on how new prompts can be worded to produce accurate and useful responses from generative AI models his firm is working on. His work includes understanding an AI model’s capabilities and limitations, and creating prompts that it will use to speak to users. He creates such prompts, tests and fine tunes them for accuracy and relevance, while also developing metrics to assess a prompt’s performance.

Starling isn’t the only one. Increasing use of generative AI models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT has spurred demand for a new class of engineers called ‘prompt engineers’. These individuals design the way an AI speaks and how users speak to it, which can have a direct impact on how users perceive the AI and engage with it.

Several AI startups working on solutions around generative AI have started advertising new job postings for prompt engineers. Unlike regular engineers, these professionals often focus more on linguistics, behavioural sciences, etc. over traditional skills like coding in programming languages.

Generative AI models are trained on large amounts of data; however, they are still prone to producing irrelevant and inaccurate content. This can be addressed by writing nuanced natural language prompts as inputs to large language models to derive desired outputs by applying design and engineering principles.

“It enables users to tailor their interactions with AI in order to get the desired outcome. By defining specific parameters and language, it allows users to communicate more effectively with AI systems such as ChatGPT," said Padmaraj Nidagundi, a researcher and author of ‘Prompt Engineering Handbook’.

Swapan Rajdev, co-founder and chief technology officer at Reliance Jio-owned conversational AI firm, Haptik, said prompts are needed to test a generative model, to check its ability in understanding what a user is saying.

“For that, you need people who are building prompts. Prompt engineering is more of a skill. Because there is a specialized skill, there is a specialized job for it. Eventually, it will evolve into a skill that most people would want to acquire," he added.To be sure, Indian AI firms such as Gupshup and LeenaAI don’t have enough workers with such skills currently. Instead, their existing AI and machine learning engineers perform these tasks. However, the role of a prompt engineer has been gaining ground globally.

“Not to be too carried away with the engineering component of this skill, prompt engineering requires knowledge of design thinking principles, behavioral science, psychology, and neuro-linguistic design skillset," said Jayanth Kolla, co-founder at tech consultancy firm Convergence Catalyst.

He added that the more accurate term would be ‘prompt designing’. “You need an engineering skill set to make a prompt work in a certain way, but what keywords need to be given and how they need to be strung together is more of a design thinking domain," he said.

Researcher and OpenAI founding member Andrej Karpathy called prompt engineers a ‘large language model psychologist’ in a 19 February tweet.

Ed-tech and professional skilling platforms are also starting to take notice. Platforms like Udemy, open-source computer vision library OpenCV, and Upgrad-owned skilling platform KnowledgeHut have announced courses in prompt engineering.

Jose M. Hernandez, a computational linguist at LinkedIn, started a short primer course on prompt engineering on the learning platform Udemy last month, which has been taken up by over 500 people since then. “The course includes topics like what is prompt engineering, how to craft the perfect prompt, best practices, and real-world applications," he told Mint.

Companies are offering decent salaries too. For instance, US-based AI startup Anthropic is offering a salary as high as $175,000-335,000 for one such role, according to a job posting on its website. The startup was founded in 2021 by former OpenAI employees and raised $300 million from Google parent Alphabet last month.

Surging demand for ChatGPT has also led to the emergence of online marketplaces such as PromptBase, Arthub AI, and PromptSea, where one can buy and sell prompts. On PromptBase, which was started in June 2022, a single prompt for AI models is available at a starting price of $1.99.

As generative AI tools enter more industries, experts also expect prompt engineers to require specialized skills for different domains. “Prompts for different areas will require different expertise. Prompt for writing a good ad copy will not work for an engineer who wants to use generative AI for assistance in coding," said Haptik’s Rajdev.

Abhijit Ahaskar contributed to the story.

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Published: 07 Mar 2023, 08:18 PM IST
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