The more I delve into the potential impact of AI on society and business, and the more I engage with the major platform providers of this technology, the clearer it becomes that we're on the cusp of a revolution. This shift is so profound that it's set to transform the way we work, live, and interact with each other and technology. We're on the brink of being scaled at both the societal level and as individuals. We're about to become superhuman, augmented by powerful technologies that evolve at an accelerating rate, enabling us to do more with less. But here's the kicker: as we scale, we're going to need fewer of us working, and those who do work will need to add more value.
The Triangle of Human Labour
I often find myself using a triangle to represent all the work done by humans. In the beginning, most labour was done by us, with a bit of help from our animal friends and basic tools. Agriculture still relied on human and animal labour until the 1700s. Then came the industrial revolutions, and technology started to fill the triangle from its base, pushing us humans upwards, nudging us to up our game.
The first industrial revolution brought in steam power, mechanising production and filling the first layer of our triangle. Labour moved from the fields into towns and cities to bring together the units of production. There was more work to satisfy demand from exploding populations. The second one introduced mass production, filling the next layer as wealth and consumerism spread. The third, the digital revolution, brought in computers and the internet. Until now, other than in cyclical depressions, the demand for labour has continued, but this is set to change.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution: AI and Robotics
Now, we're in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, powered by artificial intelligence and robotics, and this is where things get really interesting, especially as population growth stalls. As technology has advanced, humans have had to add more value and during the course of the fourth industrial revolution, we are going to experience falling demand for both cognitive and eventually physical labour as robotics advances and becomes cheaper.
AI isn't just another layer in the triangle; it's a game-changer. It is the last layer. It's accelerating the filling of the triangle, pushing us further up. Organisations are becoming "AI-assisted", supercharging their human resources and automating operations.
Supercharging Humans with AI
Emad Mostaque, a founder of Stability AI, paints a vivid picture of this future. He talks about AI as a tool for supercharging humans, like having a super-smart intern who's a bit forgetful. Memory in applications such as ChatGPT will soon be fixed. AI can already pass the bar exam, create beautiful art, and it's available to everyone for free. Watch the video here.
In the business world, this means you can now scale up your human resource and individuals can scale up, and level up their personal, capabilities, but the best and brightest who embrace AI are likely to be the most employable. As employees are supercharged with AI, they can focus on adding value, leaving the mundane tasks to their AI agents and co-pilots. Talent will be freed from years of ‘learning the ropes’.
Embracing the Change: The Future of Work
As is the case in most technology cycles, it takes longer than expected to be embraced and then it is adopted faster than the forecasts. Although the exact rate of change is hard to envisage and it is difficult to imagine where the technology will be in 2 years, it's a wake-up call.
As Emad Mostaque puts it, "We have figured out how to make humans scale." We're standing on the edge of a new era, and the question isn't whether we'll scale, but how quickly we'll grab the opportunity. The real winners will be the ones who embrace the change before the competition. They'll see AI not as a threat, but as a catalyst, a way to supercharge their capabilities, to do more with less, and to drive the next wave of innovation and growth.
Thanks for reading.