Should We Fear Transition?

Lily Savage might laugh, I think. Paul O’Grady and his drag alter-ego, Lily, sadly went on a kinder dog-friendly celestial odyssey this week but his final week on earth probably won’t go down as humanity’s finest. So why laugh? Well, the House of Commons did when Deputy PM, Dominic Raab, mistakenly paid tribute to “Paul Grayson” while claiming him bizarrely as an “anti-woke” comic. What is it with parliamentary houses these days? Scotland has just found itself a new first minister, Humza Yousaf, after a transgender row brought down the incumbent, Nicola Sturgeon. But, it’s not just a UK house thing. Ireland is in a full blown housing crisis which not even 10% GDP growth can hide or solve. However, if you were relying on voter pressure on the governing parties, think again. New housing eviction laws are grabbing the Irish headlines but latest reports suggest the prime ministerial party, Fine Gael, is receiving more emails on transgender issues than on the new eviction legislation.

What say Lily or even, Governor Bill Lee? Yes, the unfortunate Governor of Tennessee was gloating only a few weeks ago about being the first state to legislate and ban drag shows from public properties as a “child protection” measure. Fast forward to this week, the leading killer of children in the US struck again tragically in Nashville, Tennessee. No, neither pantomime nor Maureen Potter was the killer; just your every day 2nd Amendment-protected assault rifle. Humanity eh. And yet, the other big fear this week was the threat of artificial intelligence(AI) and the rapid advance of chatbot technology in the guise of generative AI’s latest offering, GPT-4. I have to say I’m with the bots this week. But many are not.

Elon Musk and other tech leaders including Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, signed an open letter calling on developers to “pause giant AI experiments.” The petition, which more than 1,000 AI experts have signed, warns that artificial intelligence poses “profound risks to society and humanity” and asks AI researchers to put their projects on ice for at least six months. There is no doubt generative AI technology is evolving at warp speed. Only this week, the creator company OpenAI which brought us GPT-4 announced that it had partnered with 11 chosen “plug ins”. Think of plug ins as everyday services which have embedded OpenAI’s chatbot capabilities. Early partners/plug ins include OpenTable, Expedia, Shopify and Instacart. In simple terms, a human being can now not only ask/generate information from the chatbot but the bot can actually interact with live web data and take ACTION. In other words, the consumer/user can prompt the chatbot to find a nearby Mexican restaurant(search information) plus make the booking, or buy the skirt, or book the flight.

Information generating automated action is a scary and imminent prospect. Clearly, control is an issue. But there has been another very dramatic shift in terms of control. Arguably, OpenAI and other AI plug-in platforms of the future have become overnight consumer services companies. Think back to the early analyses of ChatGPT in its race to 100 million users in its first 2 months of existence. The vast majority of commentary was looking at how knowledge workers(marketers, paralegals, recruiters etc) would use or be replaced by AI. Similarly, we speculated about which sectors and industries would have to move first or die. Now the questions and possibilities are far far bigger. Consumers are on the cusp of driving the evolution of AI as a demand-driven service. That’s a massive shift, but how do we feel about humans these days? Maybe Elon and the 1,000 signatories have a point; but it is early days and can really only be considered informed opinion. As always, we look to the data for firmer views and where those views are actually supported by significant capital. So, irrespective of the uncertainties ahead, financial markets are recognizing something BIG on the horizon. Check out the following developments:

  • The technology-heavy Nasdaq equity index has risen 20% from its lows in December, just when ChatGPT was first launched.
  • The famous Silicon Valley start-up incubator, Y Combinator, has recently updated investors on its first batch of 2023 hatchlings. A significant 51 of their total of 183 young growth companies are AI start-ups.
  • Nvidia may not be a household tech hardware name like Intel, Apple or Samsung. However, it is a critical designer/manufacturer of graphics processing units(GPUs) which are the core building blocks in AI development, language learning models etc. Nvidia’s share price is up just the 79% year-to-date and its market cap of $650 billion is bigger than tech sector darlings, Tesla or Facebook/Meta.
  • Goldman Sachs may just be an expensive source of opinion but their recently published AI research note had some very big numbers. Generative AI alone could boost annual global GDP by 7% over the next 10 years. Oh, and 25% of work tasks in the EU and US could be automated by AI.


So, that’s where the big money is going. As for humanity, there will be plenty of mistakes along the way and almost zero visibility on how exactly businesses and sectors will look at the end of the decade. The only certainty is transition. And, not necessarily a fearful one. This writer’s suspicion is that it will be a good one for individual empowerment, productivity, reduced income inequality, work/life balance and healthcare. You know, the things humans used to care about…… before being dragged into distraction. Farewell Lily.


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