Your new intern is, on closer inspection, a parrot

How to respond to your managers when they ask “Can AI fix this?”

Mathew Lowry
2 min readMay 3, 2024


Copy paste this into your nearest Word document or enterprise chat window, replace <<organisation_name>> with your organisation’s name and <<KM database>> with whatever tool it uses to manage its knowledge, and you’re good to go!
— You’re welcome, Mathew.

Dear <<Boss>>,

Can AI fix this problem? No, because AI is not a magic wand and AI cannot fix organisations which don’t manage their knowledge properly.

As Cory Doctorow puts it, “we’re nowhere near the point where an AI can do your job, but we’re well past the point where your boss can be suckered into firing you and replacing you with a bot that fails at doing your job… [because] there’s a huge difference between producing a plausible sentence and a good one”.

Generative AI generates plausible sentences, not necessarily correct ones. Trained on millions of words, they can choose very plausible ways for how each sentence should be written, one word at a time.

But plausible does not mean correct, and the content produced by <<organisation_name>> must be correct. So the AI content must be checked by <<organisation_name>> staff against our internal <<KM database>> of high-quality, human-verified knowledge.

It helps to think of an AI as a genetically engineered parrot you hired as an intern — it might spout coherent responses based on past training, but you wouldn’t put its work out there without checking first.

Now it’s true that the AI’s error rate can be improved by using a technology called RAG to reinforce the AI with those <<KM database>> documents. However, this only works if those documents are of high quality and correctly classified. In other words: knowledge managed properly.

So the answer is not that AI can replace knowledge management nor human staff: both KM and a human check are still essential. However, AI coupled to good knowledge management can make our staff more efficient. As long as the introduction of AI doesn’t destroy their will to live.

After all, <<organisation_name>> is a knowledge organisation. If we don’t manage our knowledge properly, what exactly are we managing?