Beyond ChatGPT: Generative AI is one small part of a ‘Cambrian explosion’ of innovation

It's hard to write an article that might be as articulate, insightful, and differentiated as what ChatGPT could produce in a few seconds.


It’s equally hard to write something that isn’t outdated in a week. AI technology is advancing exponentially, leading to profound socioeconomic change. The pace is mind-blowing. And ever since trying to build artificial bumblebee brains during my PhD 18 years ago, I have been trying to raise awareness about the impact AI will have on all our lives.


But here goes. And please don't ask me to write it in the style of Shakespeare or Eminem…


Generative AI technologies will become trusted expert personal assistants

During a private audience I had two years ago with Sam Altman (CEO of Open.AI), it was clear GPT-4 was going to be truly transformational. Like any ‘overnight success’, ChatGPT and other Large Language Models (LLMs) have been a decade in the making. This flavour of AI - referred to as Generative AI because it generates new content - uses the architecture of biological brains (neural networks) to rapidly create (yes, create!) incredible music, voice, images, animations, and videos.


And generative AI technologies like ChatGPT are already being integrated into the tools we interface with on a daily basis.


They will continue to assist us in search, answering our questions with an ever richer medium than just ten blue links. They will rapidly become trusted expert personal assistants to enhance content creation, streamline our spreadsheets, beautify our slides, write and review our code, and create tailored imagery, video, and animation everywhere we communicate.


We'll be able to orchestrate thousands of LLMs

Generative AI is just one of several AI-enabled technologies that have been supercharged by improvements in parallel computation, access to data, and algorithmic design. I put forward six applications (types of problem) that these technologies are revolutionising:

1. Task automation
2. Content generation
3. Human representation
4. Extracting complex insights/predictions from data
5. Complex (better) decision-making
6. Extending the abilities of humans

You can read more about this in my article ‘Rethinking AI


These other 'types' of AI work behind the scenes to improve the sustainability of our supply chains, understand consumer behaviours, get the right goods to the right people, and enhance the productivity and wellbeing of employees.


Over the coming years, they need to – and will – improve in several ways. We can create highly specialised LLMs and glue them together with existing LLMs like ChatGPT, so that when I mention the word 'car' in my prompt, it knows I'm talking about a Jaguar.


We already know of technologies, such as Google's Gato, that have 'common sense' when it comes to spatial and temporal real-world reasoning. Like the evolution of the human brain, they will develop logic and reasoning layers, making them less easily tricked.


In fact, we'll be able to glue thousands of LLMs together, each one trained on individuals (your own LLM or digital twin), brands, countries etc. – creating 'hive-brains' that have both general and highly contextualised perspectives. AI has proven to be cyclic, and so I expect to see a renaissance of agent-based reasoning; and AI that facilitates and orchestrates other AIs to get to a better goal.


AI has the power to totally transform humanity

I have no doubt that these technologies will accelerate the augmentation of human creativity in ways previously hard to imagine. 500 million years ago, evolution created a primitive eye, which led to an explosion of innovations.

In fact, AI has the same power to totally transform humanity. Algorithms will help us understand the world in new ways and will help make decisions more effectively than humans. 

These changes make it increasingly difficult to predict and plan for the future. So it's incredibly important to understand and appreciate the full spectrum of this technology – and imperative that we approach using it cautiously and carefully. 


I discuss some of them in this talk (AI and the Future of Humanity).



And a couple of my TEDx talks synthesise my thoughts on how AI - and particularly Generative AI - could impact us:


The Impact of AI, where I talk about the PESTLE (political, economic, socio-cultural and technological) of singularities:
  • Political singularity: we no longer know what is true
  • Economic singularity: we automate the majority of human labour
  • Social singularity: we cure death
  • Technological singularity: we create a superintelligence
  • Environmental singularity: we trigger uncontrollable ecological collapse
  • Legal singularity: surveillance becomes ubiquitous



And, from 8 years ago, AI (Big Data) and Dangerous Ideas:


A Cambrian explosion of innovations, startups and jobs

Our ability to rapidly automate processes, extract complex insights, optimise processes, embedded in software and hardware (robots, drones, etc.), is having incredibly positive economic and social benefits. Due to typical business, academic, and political cycles, I can only imagine these technologies creating a ‘Cambrian explosion’ of innovations, startups, and jobs over the next decade.


But like any tool, you need to know where and how to wield AI with the greatest effect while causing the least damage.


For example, the retail industry moves quickly, and these technologies will allow us to more effectively match the right products and services to the needs of the customer. But moving quickly can have painful repercussions if it goes wrong; warehouses become overstocked, supplier default increases, sales opportunities are misallocated, logistics grind to halt, and the customer promise is not fulfilled.


While there should be a concern about the impact that these technologies have on paid labour, I believe that these technologies will continue to bring the cost of the creation and dissemination of goods down. AI can make goods abundant and accessible, enriching the lives of more and more people. Used correctly they cannot only move the needle but future-proof your business, enabling it to adapt to a rapidly changing world.


Used in the wrong way, at best the initiatives will fail. But at worst, it’s an existential threat to your business.


Fifteen years ago, Satalia was born out of the desire to apply AI technology to solve industries' hardest problems. We have combined the various AI building blocks to exponentially advance companies. We optimise across supply-chains to marketing, and create an intelligent orchestration layer (digital twin) to capitalise on even more efficiencies. The concept of a digital twin is incredibly important. I'll write more about how they intersect generative AI in upcoming articles.


And in the 18 months since Satalia was acquired by WPP, I have worked with amazing people like Di Mayze and Stephan Pretorius; my dual-role as WPP's Chief AI Officer underpins a responsibility to ensure that these technologies are used safely and ethically. WPP has been using Generative AI tools for many years. We use them to augment and accelerate the creative process, from ideation to strategy, production to activation. As well as pioneering some of these technologies, for years WPP has been facing into the safe and ethical use of these technologies to ensure they are being used responsibly.


WPP doesn't just help organisations increase their top-line. It uses creative transformation to enable organisations to achieve their purpose. I believe that it's the collective purpose of enterprise that will make a better future for everyone.


It's up to all of us to use these technologies for good

As much as I try, it's hard to imagine what the future looks like beyond the next decade, and I'd challenge anyone who suggests otherwise. Fortunately, I have the honour to hang out with people like Calum Chace and David Wood, who have been thinking about the future for decades longer than me – check out the Futurist Podcast for essential listening from some of the world's greatest minds on predictions for the future.


I also do a tonne of board talks, lunch-and-learns, brown-bags and keynotes about how Generative AI (and AI in general) is transforming business and society. Feel free to connect and reach-out if you'd like me to do one for you.

What I do know is that the future is our gift to create. It's up to all of us to use these technologies for good.



Photo credit: Wulfila Gronenberg

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