We Need To Chat About Massive AI Numbers

Hey Alexa, play Burt Bacharach “One More Time Around” ! Sadly, Burt has has run out of earthly time and has left us to join Siri, Google and Alexa in the cloud(s). Perhaps it appears sacrilegious to mix clouds and a music god with digital virtual assistants but I’m only human. We don’t do probability. Indeed, Bacharach over six decades did the improbable as perhaps the greatest musical assistant in history; writing more than 120 Top 40 hits in the UK and US charts. On the other hand, Alexa and her Artificial Intelligence (AI) buddies probably won’t see out the decade.

There’s a new hit AI assistant on the scene, ChatGPT, and the Big Tech innovation departments are desperately trying to release their own hits. These new AI chat bots ironically are not voice-activated but respond extremely powerfully to text-prompted requests to write business plans, check and write software code, generate content marketing material, draft job adverts, summarise books, white papers etc. This article is not going to deep dive on the technology but rather is going to follow the early numbers and think about the probable impacts for business. First, let’s look at the money bit.

If you needed convincing that AI workflow tools like ChatGPT are a big deal then this was the week of show me the money. If one can characterise these chat bots as re(search) assistants then ‘search’ as an online activity is facing a ‘code red’ in potential changes to online behaviours. If code red sounds a bit hyperbolic don’t blame me. They were the words of Google management. As the kings and 90% winners of the search world, one can understand why Google were keen to launch their own AI text-generative tool. So, say hello to Bard, launched this week. And say goodbye to $173 billion of value erased from Google’s market value in the two days(yes!) since a botched demo of Bard. Irrespective of whether this is an overreaction to a Bard wrong answer(it is in my view) or not, there is no doubt huge pools of investment capital are wondering how the whole world of search advertising, workflow productivity and content generation is going to evolve. In fact, it looks like there are at least 173 billion reasons to watch developments closely.

It’s not just search under the microscope. Microsoft in their $10 billion partnership with Elon Musk’s OpenAI are launching a ChatGPT-powered version of their Bing web browser(search) but the opportunities on their Office, Teams and Power platforms must be enormous. It is no surprise to see Chinese search and AI giant, Baidu, join the bot battle with their own Ernie Bot but it would be a mistake to think all the action is on the tech supply side of things. The business world is already using these AI chat bots right now. In my own commercial environment I have seen business plans and job specs delivered with significant heavy lifting done by ChatGPT. I’m not alone. The careers focused network app, Fishbowl, just published the results of its recent survey. The headline figure that 27% of respondents had already used ChatGPT to complete tasks is pretty staggering but the breakdown by sector is even more instructive:

  • 37% of professionals in marketing and advertising have used ChatGPT to assist in their jobs.
  • 35% of technology workers have used ChatGPT. The time savings to check code are incredible.
  • 30% of consultants are using…. I could be cynical here.
  • But… healthcare and accounting professionals come in bottom of the user rankings with just 15% and 16% take up.

The bottom rankings are a good illustration where AI large language models and chat bots have some work to do. Accuracy with numbers is an issue and the lack of current context(history) can be problematic given ChatGPT only uses data up to 2021. However, the ability of ChatGPT to generate a draft text or coded structure for a task or project is a game changer. Hence marketing and tech workers are all over this, and user numbers of over 100 million in the first 2 months since November launch smashes TikTok’s previous 9 month record. Exciting times, but it should be said that data bias and ethics will remain significant challenges for AI even as “accuracy” improves. The “truth” as George Santos, Liz Truss, “30p Lee” Anderson or Donald Trump would say “is going through some things” at the moment. So, as orange jump suits and political oblivion become a distinct reality, we can perhaps hope for a better truth future with AI. As always, investment capital will fast forward to the future almost instantly so get ready for more of the following:

  • Venture Capital: The longer term money is moving. VC data oracle, Pitchbook, reckons venture capital investment in generative AI has rocketed by 425% since 2020 with $2.1 billion invested in 2022 alone.
  • Retail Trading Capital: Activity in social/trading networks suggests AI is getting that crypto or metaverse vibe. The Reddit platform which spawned so many ‘meme stocks’ are seeing subscriber numbers explode on r/chatgpt. There are relatively few pure generative AI plays which are publicly listed but BigBear.ai and C3.ai are two who are enjoying big moves. BigBear is up just the 500% year to date. That gets noticed by CEOs and guess what?
  • Corporate Messaging: An early embrace of a hot trend or technology can do wonders for a share price in the short term, irrespective of actual future execution. Check out US media player, BuzzFeed, whose CEO announced the firm would start using ChatGPT to generate content for its platforms. The share price jumped 92% on the day and a whopping 300% over the week. Expect other corporate leaders to take note..

The last example may suggest generative AI is just another Wall Street hot trend. It is not. Blockchain, crypto/digital currency, NFTs and Web3 will ultimately enjoy widespread consumer and business adoption but it is very early days for practical use cases. With ChatGPT and generative AI this feels entirely different and the 37% advertising/marketing user penetration is off the charts. The way we access information is about to change. That behavioural shift, in turn, changes search, marketing, advertising and sales. And that is why a $173 billion share price move in just a few days is a big big deal. It is clear the chat on business strategies has only just started….

“But I’ve gotta try and get it right
 Or I’ll only end up like the others”  –   One More Time Around (1988)      –     Bacharach/Bayer Sager
Burt Bacharach(1928-2023) RIP
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