Discover more from It Seems to Me (ISTM)
Introducing Ultra Shock
-- A Revised New Book by Chris Kieff and me
I believe in the wisdom of crowds, and I use social media to share my ideas and plans and to get feedback. This is particularly true for book development where my friends and followers have helped me write better books seven times previously.
About ten days ago, Chris Kieff and I announced plans to co-author a book called AI Edge Cases. We thought we had a pretty good idea but our social networks responded in a way that could be described as tepid, at best. I got more responses on Facebook by posting pictures of alligators or my dog Jesse.
In short, our crowd wisely advised us the book we envisioned would not generate the sort of reception we hoped for. We accepted what we were told, and until two days ago we struggled for a new idea related to AI where we shared passion.
Then, two days ago, we came up with an idea for an AI book where we see a significant need, particularly for business decision-makers.
I got the idea, while I was taking a break from trying to have ideas when I read a passing reference to a book that greatly influenced me many years ago: Alvin Toffler’s 1970 best-seller, Future Shock, observed that technological changes were coming at a continuously accelerating rate, and people might have trouble coping with such an overwhelming abundance of change.
By coincidence, the PC was introduced several months later, making Toffler’s vision seem prophetic and his book an enormous success.
The ChatGPT Era
We are now approaching a new era spawned by Generative AI products such as ChatGPT and we are seeing changes on an infinitely larger scale than Toffler could have possibly imagined.
I don’t think anyone really knows what is about to happen now, but I am among those who see far greater risk and promise than we experienced in the PC revolution that Toffler warned about.
Our working title/subtitle is AI Ultra Shock: It’s Happening Again—Only Faster.” We like it, but we’ll wait for the response of our crowd before ultimately deciding.
Will this global change be for better or worse? Our answer is, “Yes!” The greatest benefit may be that people may no longer have to spend their time working, and the greatest danger as I see it is that people may no longer have to spend their time working.
We have no idea how our book will conclude. We are now standing with our toes at the base of a steep mountain and the rail up is steep and winding. There is much to do and we have a lot of learning to accumulate through online research, interviews with companies and thinkers, and getting ideas and feedback from our social networks.
My guess is that AI will transform life and work dramatically for better and worse and that we will conclude that the future of the planet remains an existential riddle.
Here are just a few of our unanswered questions:
· It is estimated there will be tens of millions of jobs lost by 2030. Will these people be compensated for the remainder of their time for the good of the global economy, or will they be cut off sharply for the good of company investors?
—If people don’t work, what will they do with their time? If people don’t earn wages, what will happen to the economy? If people get ad, how will they act?
—Chatbots are replacing people in terms of customer support. In fact, AI is separating people from supermarket cashiers, bank tellers, factory workers, retail clerks who knows what comes next?
—In this new AI Era, as we will call it, is this a new efficiency one will we enjoy or will we feel isolated and dehumanized?
—Will prices come tumbling down? Will our personal income do the same?
—Will this evolving paucity of human touchpoints lead to a dystopian new world as has so often been predicted?
AI’s Fab Five
Perhaps, it is presumptuous of me to call this Ultra Shock, because Toffler’s book is a masterpiece, while our best hope is to just write a reasonably good book that will help people in business understand the problems and opportunities that are upon not just them but the rest of us as well. We’ll look at what we call, The Fabulous Five of AI: ChatGPT, Dall-E, Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, and Google Bard.
Ultra Shock is likely to change many times in the coming months. It is a prescriptive book, suggesting possible problems and solutions that we may encounter related to work and life.
We cannot yet give you an outline of just what we will cover, nor can we provide you with a target publication date. Chris and I concluded that the book would not generate the type of financial returns that would justify us working on it full-time.
This is an unfinanced project and I am available for other contractual writing assignments, while I work on Ultra in my spare time. Of course, Chris and I would welcome a sponsor or angel who would help finance this project.
Here’s what we see so far for the book. This is all subject to change, but this is where we will start:
Part One: Define the Problem
Our opening chapters will discuss areas where AI is causing problems or is like to cause them soon, such as customer support where there is no longer an available human on the business side. We’ll report on the enormous confusion, trepidation, and animosity so many people feel about AI.
We are likely to fill pages with case studies of AI failures that hurt or insulted people, damaged brand reputation or otherwise messed up.
Additionally, we’ll report on the trepidation expressed by tech luminaries such as Geoff Hinton, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and Sam Altman and we’ll interview and report on executives, researchers, and tech professionals at the Center for AI Safety which is committed to mitigating the risk of extinction that AI poses.
Part 2. Doing No Harm
While part one will be an accelerated review of screw-ups, and problems, this section will report on companies that are doing it right and thinkers who see the vast number of hopes and possibilities that AI presents.
Once again, we are following a route blazed by another benchmark old book. In Search of Excellence, was a 1982 best-seller. Author Tom Peters went around the US searching for companies where management teams produced excellence. The book inspired many of Silicon Valley’s earliest and most successful entrepreneurs on how to build great companies—and many did just that.
As of right now, Chris and I are on the lookout for companies of any size that are endeavoring to use AI to achieve greatness and we hope our friends and followers can point us to some of them and perhaps connect us.
Part 3 Doing Some Harm
While AI offers so many ways to improve life and work, there are many problems, as you well know. In Ultra Shock, we will spotlight companies where damage is being done—in our view—particularly in the category of job displacement. We’ll also look at other darkside topics such as risks to security and privacy, ethics and bias, autonomous weapons, environmental damage, spreading misinformation through deep fakes, and other forms of misinformation spreading AI.
Once again, I will be turning to my readers and followers for ideas and case studies.
Part 4. The Big Picture.
Our perception is that AI today stands at the proverbial fork-in-the-road: One way leads to a world that is healthier, safer, and more prosperous, but the other delivers into ultra shock, where there is massive unemployment, a confused and disoriented population and automated weapons of war spill human blood.
So that’s our plan. What do you think?