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Prompt engineering: A skill born of Gen AI that will be the job of the future

Problem formulation and prompt engineering skills are vital in today’s fast-paced world. As AI systems, especially generative models, become more sophisticated, the ability to effectively communicate with these systems through well-crafted prompts becomes essential. This skill ensures that AI can be directed to perform tasks accurately and creatively, making it foundational across industries seeking to leverage AI for innovation, efficiency, and problem-solving.

Recently, the World Economic Forum hailed prompt engineering as the number one “job of the future”. And the WEF is right to do so, Ruban Phukan, Co-founder and CEO of GoodGist, an upskilling organization that innovates with AI and autonomous learning, told The Tech Panda.

The WEF is correct in determining that prompt engineering is an important job for the future. While the term ‘engineering’ may actually be a bit of a misnomer, it is more about creativity in communication with the AI systems than engineering it. ‘Prompt design’ may have been a better term

“The WEF is correct in determining that prompt engineering is an important job for the future. While the term ‘engineering’ may actually be a bit of a misnomer, it is more about creativity in communication with the AI systems than engineering it. ‘Prompt design’ may have been a better term,” he informs.

As of 2024, the field continues to evolve with advancements in LLMs like GPT-4, Gemini, Claude 3 opus, and others, which have improved contextual understanding and the ability to interpret complex prompts.

Read more: Companies competing for AI talent are ready to pay high salaries but where is the talent?

“Adaptive prompting techniques have also emerged, allowing AI models to adjust their responses based on the user’s input style, leading to more personalized and effective interactions,” he adds.

Gen AI is Reshaping the Human Computer Interface

Programming has historically served as a medium to command computers and machines, evolving from low-level languages like assembly to modern high-level languages such as Python, JavaScript, Java, and C++. The essence of programming has remained constant, to instruct machines through compiled or interpreted code.

Generative AI, however, says Phukan, is reshaping how we interact with technology, transitioning from traditional programming languages to natural human language and prompt engineering. The phenomenon has given birth to a new set of skills.

The emphasis shifts from coding proficiency to mastering problem-solving across various domains—business, consumer, and the environment. This shift is crucial, as it aligns technological capabilities with the urgent need to address complex global challenges efficiently and creatively

“This evolution democratizes programming, enabling anyone to instruct machines, thus broadening the horizon of who can solve problems using technology. The emphasis shifts from coding proficiency to mastering problem-solving across various domains—business, consumer, and the environment. This shift is crucial, as it aligns technological capabilities with the urgent need to address complex global challenges efficiently and creatively,” he explains.

Building Guardrails Through Sophisticated Prompt Engineering

Prompt engineering’s significance extends beyond facilitating effective AI-human interactions.

“It now plays a pivotal role in constructing guardrails for AI systems through carefully designed prompts that embed ethical, safety, and compliance considerations,” says Phukan.

The ability to build and maintain these guardrails through sophisticated prompt engineering becomes indispensable for sustaining trust and safety in AI applications

This involves crafting prompts that can guide AI behaviors, preventing undesired actions, and mitigating risks associated with bias, privacy breaches, and violation of ethical norms, legal standards, and societal values, while encouraging beneficial outcomes. and critical sectors.

“The ability to build and maintain these guardrails through sophisticated prompt engineering becomes indispensable for sustaining trust and safety in AI applications,” he adds.

As AIs Talks to Each Other

Another advanced application of prompt engineering is in developing multi-agent AI systems that learn through communication with each other. This, says Phukan, enables more complex, collaborative AI behaviours that mimic human social and professional interactions, leading to systems capable of autonomous problem-solving, negotiation, and learning from collective experiences.

“The skill to design and refine these communication prompts is vital, ensuring that AI agents can effectively understand and respond to each other, thereby enhancing the system’s overall intelligence and efficiency,” he says.

This is giving rise to the need for this new skill. Already, universities are giving out certifications for prompt engineering that put that official spin on things. Davidson College in North Carolina, US, has an AI Prompt Engineering for Beginners and Vanderbilt University has an 18-hour online course for ChatGPT.

Read more: ‘Upskilling in scalable way will need a pedagogy shift’

Big tech companies like Google are teaching how to use prompt tuning to enhance LLM performance. Open AI itself has prompt engineering for developers course built in partnership with DeepAlLearning.

Prompt engineering as a skill is not just a necessity for techies, but other professions like lawyers, accountants, marketing executives, who might soon have no choice but to catch up with this skill.

Navanwita Bora Sachdev

Navanwita is the editor of The Tech Panda who also frequently publishes stories in news outlets such as The Indian Express, Entrepreneur India, and The Business Standard

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