The Law: The value you gain from AI, and how quickly and consistently that value is realized, is directly proportional to your understanding of, access to and acceptance of the technology.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the AI adoption curve, both in our personal and professional lives, and who stands to benefit most from rapid advancements in the technology.
Where I’ve landed is that the impact and benefits of AI will be unevenly distributed to individuals, companies and industries. In some cases it will be by your own choice, and in others it will be by institutional design. For example:
- Financial services companies blocking employees’ ChatGPT access.
- Educational systems at all grade levels struggling to adapt to generative AI capabilities in curriculum.
- My own unwillingness to install some super-interesting AI apps because I don’t know or trust the companies and how they’ll use my data.
This uneven distribution will create dramatic differences in people’s experiences with and perceptions about AI. It will profoundly impact how much you reap the benefits of AI in your personal and professional lives, how much value your company extracts from the technology, and the trajectory of your AI journey.
So what are the benefits of AI when adopted?
In our personal lives, AI holds the potential to provide:
In our professional lives, AI can drive:
That all sounds great! So why won’t we all enjoy these benefits in similar ways?
Factors that Influence Distribution of Benefits
There are three primary factors that will affect the distribution of benefits: Understanding of AI, Access to AI, and Acceptance of AI. Let’s briefly break each of these factors down:
Understanding of AI
Your personal life is AI assisted (e.g. Amazon, Facebook, Gmail, iPhone, Netflix, Spotify, etc.), and your professional life will be too. But, much of the technology you use in business is still elementary, and powered by human-written rules.
To benefit from AI applications in business, you need to be aware they exist. This need for awareness seems obvious, but so many business leaders were blissfully unaware of the impending impact of AI before the ChatGPT moment in November 2022. Now everyone is racing to solve for AI in business, but lacking the talent, vision and strategy to execute.
Once you’re aware, you move into comprehension. At the comprehension phase, you’re learning what AI is, how it works, and beginning to explore use cases and technologies.
Finally, at the competency phase, you’re now moving into experimentation and finding practical applications. You’re running pilot projects, becoming more confident assessing AI vendors, and beginning to see lifts in productivity and performance, and continually advancing your knowledge and skills.
Access to AI
Your access to AI comes down to a few key factors.
Cost, or can you afford the solution?
Governance, meaning your ability to use AI technology within your organization, or within the laws and regulations of society.
And, gatekeepers, being the technology companies and research labs that are making decisions on behalf of society as to when and how to release more advanced versions of AI technologies.
Acceptance of AI
Once you understand and have access to AI, your acceptance is the final variable that determines the value you extract.
How resistant will you be to change? For creative professionals in particular, accepting AI’s evolving role in the generation of language, images, video and audio can be difficult. You need to ask yourself what will be lost, what will be gained and when? Then, determine how ready you are to adapt and embrace smarter technologies.
Next, you have to determine how willing you are to give up the data needed to realize the key benefits of AI in your personal and professional lives.
For example, in your personal life, loyalty programs are a great way for businesses to learn buying behavior and predict future purchases. You get rewarded with personalization and promotions, but you also let retailers into your life.
We see this trade-off (i.e. data for personalization and convenience) become increasingly more complex and nuanced with health apps that monitor very personal data, financial apps that have access to your income and spending, and voice assistants that hear and store all of your questions and communications, to name a few.
And as AI’s capabilities expand, you have to be comfortable with, and accept, constant change, as well as the potential downsides that come from known and unknown risks. Not everyone is prepared to do that.
The Downsides of AI Distribution
Now, AI isn’t all positives. Regardless of how quickly it is infused into your career and life, there will be intended and unintended negative consequences. For example:
- As more valuable personal data is collected to drive AI development, the incentive to steal that data will increasingly put your identity and security at risk.
- Knowledge work will be disrupted. There should be a net positive impact on jobs over the coming decade (or at least that’s what I want to believe), but it won’t always be a smooth transition.
- Bad actors will use the power of AI to spread misinformation, disinformation, deepfakes and propaganda. This will negatively affect business, politics and society.
It’s important to take these, and other, potential negatives into account as you consider your relationship with AI moving forward.
Actions You Can Take
So what can you do?
- Be curious, and explore AI. Seek knowledge in whatever way you prefer to learn—books, podcasts, documentaries, online courses, TikTok videos, or maybe just as ChatGPT. Understanding is essential to maximize the potential positive impact in your personal and professional lives.
- Figure out what data you, your family and your company are willing to give up in exchange for convenience, personalization and all the other AI benefits.
- Consider your company’s policies and principles around AI usage, and do what you can to ensure a balance between innovation and the responsible application of AI technologies.