Imagining Transformation

be radical Briefing | May 23rd, 2023


ChatGPT is now officially on your iPhone (and sometime soon, Android). ChatGPT (and the many, many other LLM-based tools available now) has, within a few short weeks, completely changed the way I look up information. I barely use search engines anymore – once you start using tools like ChatGPT and get the hang of it, traditional web search feels like something from a long bye-gone era. The convenience of getting an answer instead of a wall of links (and even more ads) is just dramatically better than the previous status quo.

This makes me believe search is truly dead and will die fast. And with that, a huge industry that lived off of search engine traffic. From search engine marketers to companies depending on search traffic – I don’t think it is clear at all how any of these enterprises will fare in the not-too-distant future. Talk about a State Change if there ever was one…

Read on to lean into the sometimes unsettling power of scenario planning.

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Decode. Disrupt. Transform.

Pascal and I had an unsettling experience recently while running a scenarios workshop with one of our clients. We’d been asked to help a group of leaders explore a set of scenarios envisioning how the development of digital technologies over the next decade might impact demand and fulfillment in their industry.

In the early steps of this workshop, each group is engaged in worldbuilding – working out from a few high-level defining facts about their respective scenario to create an increasingly detailed and imaginative but logically consistent, plausible version of the future. One of the groups, tasked with envisioning a world in 2033 where artificial intelligence had proven to have a “transformational” impact, began modestly: They suggested that this future would see AI/automation start to replace human labor in a range of jobs and functions.

A part of me is always relieved and grateful when the human imagination doesn’t immediately jump to Skynet or Agent Smith when asked to envision a future defined by transformative AI tools and systems. But this version of 2033 was looking almost shockingly mundane, strangely familiar, and probably deeply defined by an unexamined assumption that tomorrow would still look mostly like today. Real change would still be something on the horizon. There would still be time to prepare for the “transformative” part of the future to arrive.

Scenario thinking is designed specifically to help us break free of that kind of assumption, free of the “tyranny of the present” and the hold that past experience has over the futural imagination. And there’s a strong case to be made for the claim that this type of thinking (exploring “what we might do if…”) is particularly essential now and particularly urgent as regards the development of AI systems. You don’t need to be a card-carrying singularitarian in the mold of Ray Kurzweil to recognize that the field isn’t just moving fast – the rate of change is clearly accelerating. The next generation of multimodal generative AI tools (which can process, analyze, and create across media types) is already leaving ChatGPT behind – barely six months after the chatbot’s public launch.

The thing to realize here: Precisely because all of these new tools and technologies are digital, they are far easier to iterate, share, combine, fork, embed, and remix – each act contributing to the larger process of combinatorial innovation – than were the defining technologies of previous eras. All of which means that the transformational future is moving fast and could arrive on a timeline that will feel deeply unfamiliar.

Do I know what the trajectory of AI will look like over the next decade? Of course not. That’s a tremendous time frame for these technologies to evolve and converge. But I know this: We need to give ourselves, our leaders, and our organizations permission to imagine TRULY transformational impacts on the economy, society, and culture. Seeing those possibilities with clarity will allow us to ask richer questions and frame better, more intentional conversations about stakes and strategy, how we might need to lead, and what we might need to learn. (via Jeffrey)

What We Are Reading

♻️ How “Perspective Swaps” Can Unlock Organizational Change The power of perspective can foster a culture of innovation and empowerment that leads to better outcomes for everyone involved. There is always more than one way to view a situation, which builds the ability to think creatively and adaptively in response to new situations and change efforts. JaneRead

🧠 Why the mind-body connection is vital to understanding consciousness Our sense of interoception, which monitors internal body signals – such as heart rate, pain, thirst, and pleasure – plays a major role in creating our thoughts and emotions. Now, many consider interoception to be a fundamental feature of consciousness, too. MafeRead

📶 How China’s ShareIt became the world’s go-to file-transfer app The story of China’s ShareIt app shows smart market fit and dominance don’t make a product immune to the effects of macro shifts (in this case, increasing connectivity in areas long lagging) that can rapidly undercut a core value proposition.  JeffreyRead

🧑‍🏫 The First Year of AI College Ends in Ruin A great read describing the many different angles and perspectives from which AI in education needs to be considered. JulianRead

🧑‍🦳 No, It’s Not Just You: Why time “speeds up” as we get older Do you feel that time “speeds up” as we get older? According to Professor Adrian Bejan, this happens because the rate at which we process visual information slows down, making time ‘speed up.’ In other words, when we are young, each second of actual time is packed with many more mental images. PedroRead

😶‍🌫️ Instead of Your Life’s Purpose The non-linear approach to meaning is about being prepared for the call to adventure and recognizing opportunities as they arise rather than trying to discover a singular mission or purpose. It’s about becoming a resilient, flexible person who recognizes and exploits those opportunities. PascalRead

The Thin Wisps of Tomorrow

🔎 Search the web with the power of AI using Perplexity’s new search engine.

🦮 Here’s your guide to prompt engineering.

📜 Our fears and hopes for AI aren’t new – far from it.

🤔 When it comes to AI, this time does indeed feel different.

🗣️ Talking about bias – due to the nature of language, some languages are much more expensive to model in an LLM than others…

Internet Finds

Do you want to experience AI when it has a little (or even big) attitude? BratGPT to the rescue. 😈

In Other Parts of the Radical Universe

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic: Poke Life 🎧 Listen 📺 Watch

🧨 Disrupt Disruption - The Podcast: We brought Christina Nesheva, CEO at Officinae Bio, back to talk about leadership. Listen now.

📕 Disrupt Disruption – The Book: Get your copy of our bestselling book and learn how to decode the future, disrupt your industry, and transform your business here.