Rise of the Machines

Photo by Xu Haiwei on Unsplash - https://unsplash.com/photos/_3KdlCgHAn0

The hype around AI (artificial intelligence) is off the charts. People are not only talking about it but actively using AI-driven tools like ChatGPT. The big tech companies – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, NVidia, et al – are making huge investments in it.

In my lifetime, I’ve lived through what I would consider to be three major technology shifts – the transition to PCs, the emergence of the internet, and the shift to mobile phones or, more generally, mobile computing. With AI, it would appear that we are on the verge of the next major technology shift. In fact, one could convincingly argue that it’s already well underway.

While there are valid reasons to be concerned about the development of AI and calls to pause its development, there’s also plenty of opportunities, which is the focus of this post.

The emergence of artificial intelligence in computing is not new. Companies have already implemented ‘narrow’ versions of the technology. Google uses it to crawl the web and personalize search results. Facebook uses it to recommend connections and personalize the news feed. Credit card companies use it to detect fraudulent transactions and nefarious behavior. It’s used in voice assistance such as Siri, Alexa, and Cortana. These advances have taken place behind the scenes and helped make us more efficient without us even knowing it. For purposes of distinction, let’s call this AI 1.0.

What’s emerging is the next version of AI. Let’s call it AI 2.0. Instead of being locked behind corporate walls and used for narrow applications, the technology is being made available to the general public for use in new and novel ways. What’s changed? Computing advances and declining storage costs have enabled the machines to learn faster using larger data sets than they could before. With these advances, AI 2.0 is unlocking new opportunities.

On the business side, new companies and players will emerge, both in the hardware and software markets. Just like the transition to PCs saw the rise of Microsoft and Intel, the emergence of the internet fueled the growth of Google and Amazon, and the shift to mobile computing led to Apple’s meteoric rise, AI 2.0 is going to change corporate fortunes. On the hardware side, Nvidia has amassed a large early lead. In software, Open AI has jumped out first with others attempting to stake their claims. For example, I wouldn’t count Facebook out and expect them to be a major contender given their investments in AI and open source initiatives around it.

AI 2.0 is also going to create massive changes in the job market. There will be new and innovative ways to do things. Time consuming, expensive, and rote jobs like generating boilerplate legal documentation, generating sales and marketing copy, creating instruction manuals, optimizing customer service, generating stock images, and evaluating and diagnosing medical conditions will be obsoleted or significantly altered. New job opportunities will be required for those who know how to drive and direct the new technology, especially during the early stages of the transition. During that time, human intervention will be required to correct results, feed changes back to the models, and improve and optimize the accuracy of the algorithms.

Whether we like it or not, there’s no going back. The proverbial cat is out of the bag. Therefore, the chose is simple – embrace or reject the rise of the machines. I would argue that now is the time to embrace and learn how to leverage AI for your benefit, whether it is for personal or professional purposes. Those who learn how to use and master it first will have a distinct advantage over those who don’t, or worst yet, those who resist.

Personally, I feel behind the curve, which has me nervous and is triggering my FOMO. While I understand the technology and am aware of the developments around it, I don’t feel like I’ve spent near enough hands-on time with it. It’s a top priority of mine to get up to speed through the rest of this year so I can hit 2024 feeling comfortable with and ready to use the technology.

Now, to be clear, AI is not the end-all be-all technology solution to all of our problems. It’s not a panacea, so I want to be careful not to over hype it. While there are plenty of opportunities, there are also a lot of issues that need to be dealt with as the technology matures and becomes more pervasive in our every day lives. Clearly, there are reasons to be concerned. I have my own fears, especially around the pace of the change, which I’ll cover in my next post about AI.

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