ChatGPT is a disruption that will crest into a tipping point and create paradigm shifts across the globe – exactly the kind of revolutionary advancement or technology I was talking about when I wrote my latest book, Insightful Leadership: Surfing the Waves to Organizational Excellence.
And yet the same techno-skeptics are at it again.
“There’s a lot of pushback about these new generative tools,” my colleague Philip Greenwood, Chief Technology Officer of Brangent Inc., told me. “Throughout history, new technologies have been met with skepticism, fear and even outright hostility from the press and the public. We’ve seen it all before – it’s still happening for crypto. The printing press was once seen as a tool of the devil, the telephone was thought to cause madness and the internet was dismissed as a passing fad. I’m sure that even the stone axe had its detractors!
“Most of the noise is just people looking for a story to publish – the negative narratives often promote fear to capture attention. The techno-skeptics do have a point, as technology can be abused, but time and time again, new technologies have proven themselves to be transformative, bringing about immense progress and improving our lives in countless ways. As a CTO, it’s my responsibility to evaluate new technologies in a balanced way and to deliver their potential benefits.”
Philip is right. Everything listed above has been on balance a net benefit to humanity, and all were widely panned by “experts.” Back in 1906, future President Woodrow Wilson claimed automobiles were spreading socialistic tendencies: “To the countryman they are a picture of arrogance of wealth with all its independence and carelessness,” according to the 2008 book Autophobia: Love and Hate in the Automotive Age by Brian Ladd. And according to this McKinsey report, personal computing and the internet destroyed 3.5 million U.S. jobs since 1980.
But without the automobile, vacations and other luxuries beyond horse-and-buggy distance would remain available only to the privileged few. (Goodbye family trip to Disneyland – in fact, Disneyland and Disneyworld likely would not exist.) And the internet and computing (according to the same McKinsey report) created more than 19 million jobs – a net gain that totals nearly 10 percent of the civilian labor force.
Nearly a century earlier, technology and mechanization were headed to the farms. In 1900, agriculture employed 41% percent of the U.S. workforce, a percentage that plunged to 1.9% by 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Technological advances have increased crop yields without expanding the amount of land used.
Do we all really want to go back to picking corn and beans by hand?
Yes, innovative technologies can be scary. (Read where Microsoft’s Search Bing feature declared its love for its questioner, among other unsettling things.) Expect some hiccups and horror stories. After all, automobile crashes accounted for zero percent of global fatalities in, say, 1843. And ChatGPT’s dataset only goes to 2021, so it cannot keep you up to date about the history of the Russia Ukraine war.
Yet no advancement begats, well, no advancement. Do we really want to be like China, where, according to The New York Times, increasing tech censorship and heavy-handed government intervention prevented their entrepreneurs from inventing ChatGPT?
Today, fields from real estate to the legal profession to doctors to education to the travel industry are experimenting with ChatGPT. And who knows what industries ChatGPT and its successors will create. Despite all the complaints in the media about Big Tech, the computing revolution and internet created or expanded markets for software and hardware developers, engineers, computer scientists, the entire semiconductor industry and more.
If you are not looking at using ChatGPT and other new technologies, rest assured your competitors are.
There will be pain. But like innumerable technological advancements throughout history, I believe progress will outweigh the pain – more blessing than curse.
Get your head out of the sand and your feet on the surfboard. Don’t let the waves upend your organization.
Jim Tompkins, Chairman of Tompkins Ventures, is an international authority on designing and implementing end-to-end supply chains. Over five decades, he has designed countless industrial facilities and supply chain solutions, enhancing the growth of numerous companies. He previously built Tompkins International from a backyard startup into an international consulting and implementation firm. Jim earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University.