Are you ready for the Age of Intelligence?
Let me walk you through my current thoughts on where we are, and where we are going.
The Age of Intelligence
We've just entered what seems to be an ever-accelerating period of time, where each week we are making technological strides that, in the past few years, seemed impossible.
Looking back to 2016, none of the things that are currently possible with LLM was even thought to be possible. Autoregressive models, at that point in time, were not considered the way to go. Only a handful thought so, or at least wanted to give it a try.
These few people pushed through, and with the increase in compute power, came the increase in capabilities.
Convergence is now happening in so many areas at the same time. The true horizontal capabilities of these new tools are incredible.
The great battle for AI supremacy has started. The massive behemoths of the world are placing their chess pieces on the board. Every marketing team is hard at work trying to steal the limelight from the competition, with news breaking in a seemingly endless stream of overnight 100x improvements.
We're rushing, it seems, straight into a decade of what seems to be comprised of something like infinite growth. Pause. Take a minute.
This is what happens with exponential growth...
Most futurists have predicted this for decades. Once we are past a certain point, the speed of change itself will be so fast that humans will have a very hard time keeping up.
I'd argue that we have entered one of these inflection points right now, or we are at the early stages of one, heating up the engines, ready to blast off.
With AI models not only exploding in numbers but also in capabilities, they are also integrating into almost all areas of our lives.
The great accelerator
We will see greater innovation and improvements in the next 36 months to existing products, services, and workflows than we've seen in the past 10-15 years combined. You might think I've lost my mind, but it's quite the opposite. This is why it's so darn hard to think in exponents.
We have a few pivotal points from which everything in the past will look ancient. The Google Search we have grown up learning how to use will, in hindsight, look like smoke signals or maybe, if I stretch it more, like a Morse code apparatus. Hard to grasp.
If we lived in the information age for the past 30 years, we have now entered the Age of Intelligence. How long it will last will most likely depend on us and our ability to collaborate across our differences and unite as a species. Shaking the magic 8-ball, the response is "outlook not great."
If (read when) mankind figures out true AGI, that's when we cease to either exist or flourish in some sort of new, endless bountiful utopia, where the need for human work for survival quickly diminishes to zero.
What will humans do?
I don't think it's farfetched that we will seek harder problems to solve, as we have done throughout history. We might also seek to solve the mysteries of origin, faster-than-light travel, transcendence, and much more.
I also think we will become a species of leisure, that is until something more important comes up. We might seek to occupy ourselves with things that bring us true joy and meaning, regardless of how society today would label said activity. Work for survival, I think, will be a notion of the past.
I think we might be bound to the constraints of our imaginations when it comes to truly understanding the age of tomorrow.
Life tends to imitate art because of sci-fi. We now dream of distant planetary systems, life beyond Earth, and intelligence out there. We also dream of Earth as a protected biome floating in the vastness of space, as one of the few places in the known universe to harbor life.
What happens when we realize these magical endeavors?
What will we dream of then?
How fast will machine intelligence help us discover new science? Can it even keep up?
Our current technological growth has been governed by Moore's Law. What happens if growth starts to accelerate away from it? What will that mean for the future of AI and AGI?
Are we ready for the societal changes that will hit us hard and fast when machines can automate and perform most intellectual tasks on par with or even 10x or 1000x better and faster than humans?
The embodied machine
What will happen when we embody the machines, giving them locomotion, sight, smell, and hearing?
There are many companies currently predicting that there will be more humanoid robots than people on the planet in the next 20 years. Again, it is not farfetched to think that it will happen. Even Elon Musk has said that he thinks the future of Tesla is not the cars division but Optimus, their humanoid robot.
Why do we push to create a machine in our image? This pursuit seems like nothing less than mankind having a strong itch of a god complex. Surely the optimal embodiment of a machine is not a bipedal humanoid. Yet we seek to create it, circling back to life imitating art. I think it's possible for us to take many cues from sci-fi and art.
The world of yesterday and the age of tomorrow will look something like comparing the Middle Ages with today, yet on a timescale of 1-2 generations tops. This is true exponential growth on a few centuries-long timeline.
Our brain's capacity to operate with exponentials is crippled by default. We are wired to understand linear growth because that is what nature does. Humans don't double in size every 2 weeks; trees don't reach 3 km in length, etc. Almost everything in the world (except computation and some other things) can be observed with linear growth.
But silicon-based intelligence is not on a linear scale of growth; it is on an exponential scale. While the human brain can predict the future to some extent, exponential thinking is extremely difficult for us.
We saw this with the pandemic; we saw this with the decline of massive companies such as Nokia or Kodak.
When new technologies come into existence at an exponential rate, it's hard for older companies to keep up and stay relevant. We have seen this in the past, and we are starting to see this now with AI.
This paradigm shift is not just affecting technology companies but everyone at every level of society.
We've basically never seen anything like this before in history, except maybe the asteroid wiping out the dinosaurs. We can try to compare the rise of AI to the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution, however, took time and affected a minor workforce compared to AI, which is looking to affect all 8 billion of us.
Given that we seem to have a hard time collaborating lately, with the rise of a polarized society, increased hate, war, and divisiveness, the rise of intelligence could either seek to unite us or simply think we are vermin and seek to get rid of us completely.
Again, taking cues from sci-fi, it is not hard to fall into one of the two camps: either AI is our liberator or our demise.
Speeding towards AGI
On the road towards AGI, we will encounter a few incredible feats. Seemingly in an instant, a lot of transportation will go from needing a human driver to simply driving itself. This will look like an overnight success, but reality is that it's taken close to 2 decades of research and development to get there.
Yet it will be one of the points in history when everything we know about something will be flipped on its head, and many people will be affected in a short period of time.
I think that we are living inside one of these moments right now with the rise of LLMs (ChatGPT, Bard, Claude, etc.). Where the prediction of the next character gives us an inkling of human intelligence. This is the Tetris version of AI, and we are raising towards the Nvidia RTX version of AI.
AI will never be dumber than it is today. While it's still in its infancy, product after product, and vertical after vertical, is getting disrupted, either from the outside or from within.
What months ago took a team of 10 and a couple of million dollars in funding can now be built by a team of 2 and a few hundred thousand, if even that. Software is entering a new era, one of abundance, hyper-personalization, and single-use applications will most likely be the norm of tomorrow.
Some of the most disruptive products right now are run by small teams, serving millions of customers with just a few handfuls of staff. Midjourney is an example of this (a generative AI startup focused on image creation) with a team of 11 and over 15 million members in their Discord, up from just 800k in October 2022. Wow.
Another success is, of course, OpenAI with ChatGPT. It reached 1 million users in 5 days and then 100 million in about 2 months. It's estimated that right now, ChatGPT has around 200 million users. Seems like a massive number? Yet it's only about 2.5% of the world's population. Things are just getting started.
We're at the early days of AI, which means we are at the early days of the Age of Intelligence. Make no mistake, this technology will reach all corners of the world faster than anything in history before it. It will be the fastest adoption of any new technology ever invented.
For a few simple reasons, the barrier to entry is almost none. You can use all these new tools on a cheap phone with an internet connection, making it readily available to the 5 billion internet users of today. It does not matter if it's ChatGPT or Midjourney; you can utilize the tools in the palm of your hand at near-zero cost or even for free. True disruption at scale.
The implications of this will reverberate in the history books for centuries to come. We might refer back to 2023 as the point of no return, the AI spring, or the beginning of the end.
It's up to us, mankind, to write the next chapter together.
Are you ready for the Age of Intelligence?
Thank you for reading 🙏🏻
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I will admit that I used to think the concept of Singularity was BS. But now with this increasingly-accelerating rate of growth and innovation, I am more than certain that we will reach that point, probably even during our lifetimes.
For some reason, we as humans tend to think of the future as only a slightly modified version of the present. But we couldn't be more wrong.
Interesting times ahead haha
"I also think we will become a species of leisure, that is until something more important comes up. We might seek to occupy ourselves with things that bring us true joy and meaning, regardless of how society today would label said activity. Work for survival, I think, will be a notion of the past."
I think this is going to happen in first world countries initially.
As someone living in a developing country that is fully unionized it is not that likely for us here. And if it does occur, how will the former working class earn income? A lot of these ideas are influenced by our surroundings and what we deem normal.
Many countries are lacking in basics like running water or flushing toilets but we would like AI to take over all our jobs so we can kick back and do whatever we please.
The ideas are there but implementation all over isn't going to happen simultaneously.