In her interview with Fred Wilson, Carlota Perez, who inspired him greatly in forming his investment strategy, talks about five technological revolutions:
1) The Industrial Revolution (Machines and Canals)
2) Railways and The Steam Engine
3) Heavy Engineering using Cheap Steal
4) The Automobile, The Assembly Line and Mass Production of Electrical Appliances
5) The Information Revolution
On October 4 2011, with the introduction of Siri in iPhone 4S, a new technological revolution has begun:
6)The Artificial Intelligence Revolution
Siri signals the dawn of a new era in software and technology. In this decade, Artificial Intelligence and its application to business and everyday life will be the driving factor of innovation and economic growth.
A.I. will redefine everything. Cards will be dealt yet again. Commerce, manufacturing, biotech, science, internet, telecom, banking, insurance, homes and even the god damn television finally will succumb to its immense power. No moat, no pile of cash, no monopoly will save any company from extinction unless they catch up to the Artificial Intelligence Revolution.
The Magic of Siri
In the first days of computers, humans needed to know how to punch cards to make the computer do anything. That was really inefficient and could only be done by very few people who have the proper education. Then came the command line and the keyboard. Next in line was GUI and mouse. Recently, we started touching computers to make them do stuff for us.
Every step forward made new kinds of software possible. This new software was easier to use and learn than its predecessor. It was more useful and richer in features, too. At every step forward, not only more people could use computers, they were also able to do more advanced tasks more easily. Today, billions are able to incorporate computers to their daily lives in a useful way. Computers are also at the core of any scientific research in such a way that it is impossible to imagine one that doesn’t use a computer.
Yet still, most software requires special training. Software user interfaces can be so complicated that there are courses, books and certification programs only to learn how to operate them.
You might be a gifted architect but without learning AutoCAD you cannot design a building.
Siri eliminates the need for special training to use software. It throws away the mouse, the keyboard, the menus, the buttons, the tabs, the popup menus, the toolbars. It removes all the obstacles between your abilities and getting tasks done.
A writer doesn’t need to know how to use Word to write a story anymore. He just needs inspiration. An architect does not need to waste time learning AutoCAD to design a building. She just needs to be creative. An executive does not need to wait a week for the IT department to produce him a new report. He just needs to be savvy enough to ask the right question.
In the next decade, thanks to the middle man called Artificial Intelligence, humans will perceive their computers as indispensable servants. The genuine intelligence of the human mind and the computer’s incredible ability to do dull work at amazing speeds will melt together. You will talk, you will touch, you will imagine and the servant will make it happen.
The Opportunity is not Artificial
The incredible thing about Siri or A.I. in general is that it departmentalizes knowledge. A.I. learns about topics. Today, Siri answers simple trivia questions, makes restaurant recommendations, talks about the weather and performs the tasks you can do with your phone such as setting up reminders and appointments.
There are a gazillion of other tasks that we do with our computers. A.I. needs to be thought to do all of them. It should be thought to make spreadsheets, draw 3D graphics or execute business processes.
In this decade, our job as software developers will be to teach the A.I. how to perform these tasks. It will all happen gradually. First, we are going to build bridges between the A.I and existing software. We will teach it how to use Excel. Next, we will rebuild Excel from ground up specifically optimized for A.I. Finally, there will be no Excel, just A.I. that knows how to prepare a spreadsheet. The App Store won’t sell Pages, Numbers and Keynote. It will sell the ability of preparing a document, spreadsheet and presentation. You will download an ability and your Siri will learn how to accomplish a task.
This way of thinking will be applied to all software. Software for every business task you can imagine such as budgeting, accounting, hiring will have to be rethought, reengineered and rebuilt in the light of A.I., possibly several times over.
The Pain will not be Artificial
What A.I. will do to current jobs and businesses will be difficult to watch. Everytime it learns to do something, there will be people and companies that are left behind. They will feel like someone just ripped off one of their limps. Imagine A.I. helps you prepare your monthly reports. Will you need the staff in the IT department who knows how to write reports and screens?
If A.I. knows about insurance, will you ever google for it? What if A.I. can help you with loans, morgage rates, attorneys, credit, donation, getting a degree, finding a hosting solution, accident claim, setting up a conference call and credit card balance transfer which happen to be the top 10 keywords Google makes its money from. What then? What if your business depends on Google for customers?
I could go on and on with examples but I think the point is loud and clear.
You are in or You are Out
This is not some futuristic bullshit. It is not intellectual masturbation. It is all happening now. Entrepreneurs; start imagining and prepare your pitches. VC’s; make your bets. Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Amazon, eBay and the like; either wake up and catch up to IBM and Apple or become irrelevant along the way. Traditional software developers; adapt or join the unemployment line. Managers; save a seat for the invisible member of every meeting. And as last but not the least…Consumers; buckle up, because this is going to be an amazing ride.
And to think that when Siri debuted, the crowd was disappointed that there was no IPhone 5 with a wider screen…
Yalim K. Gerger (@yalimgerger)