August 23rd, 2023 | By: Wil Schroter | Tags: Strategy
Yes, AI is actually going to change everything, and No, we're not all totally screwed.
Why? Because every time we embrace change as Founders, we create exponentially more value than has ever existed before. And every time things change, everyone freaks out and thinks the "old ways" were the only way things should have been done.
I'm an avid carpenter — I build tons of stuff with power tools. Every time I'm zipping through a piece of lumber with my portable saw I think, "Some poor bastard used to have to do this by hand. I bet the moment he saw an electric saw, he figured he'd be out of a job!"
What we're missing with that line of thinking isn't whether we'll be displaced — it's whether we should have been doing that work by hand, to begin with.
Every time some new technology gets introduced, everyone bemoans how it will destroy what we already know. Electricity spoiled the coal industry. The Industrial Revolution replaced humans with machines. Computers allowed a single person to do the work of a dozen.
Personally, I showed up at the dawn of the Internet Era circa 1993. At the time I was running one of the first Web Design companies (I'm old), and I was telling everyone how the whole world would be connected and information would be free. Precisely zero people I spoke to believed me.
All people could talk about was the potential death of Barnes & Noble and Blockbuster. "Who will read books? Or patronize video stores?" Oh, the horror! As if those modalities were the only way commerce could be done or information could be shared. When was the last time you thought, "I really wish I could get in my car and drive across town to see if a single movie I might want to watch is available." Exactly never.
Every revolution starts with consternation, but the people who embrace change early become the greatest winners of each new era. Fun fact — did you know J.P. Morgan (yeah, the banking guy) was the man who financed electricity to every home? That worked out OK for him, although it does help to be backing Edison when you do it.
We need to change our mindset. When we're used to being paid to be the tool — the writer, the math whiz, the coder — we assume our value only exists as the tool. That's like me saying the only value I have as a carpenter is my ability to use a hand saw. A saw is just a tool, whether it's manual or powered. What matters is what the carpenter does with that new tool.
We are the carpenters of innovation. Our job isn't to hand-saw stuff. Our job is to constantly look for more efficient tools to get the output of what we do. If AI can help us do 10x more than we could yesterday - it's a wonderful thing. Think of how many more houses a carpenter can help build with more efficient tools.
There will be another set of tools after AI and another set of tools after that. Every time a new set of tools emerges, the operators become exponentially more valuable than before. We need to harvest that new value.
Every time a new technology gets introduced there's an explosion of innovation. Think of how many companies, jobs, and industries were created from the rise of the Internet. Look at your smartphone (which was its own revolution) and how many apps exist. None of those existed 20 years ago, and many didn't exist 10 years ago, and now they are part of our daily lives.
Our greatest innovators have consistently been borne by embracing the future, whether it's Cornelius Vanderbilt pioneering rail travel or Bill Gates's dream of "a PC in every home." Conversely, the greatest empires are consistently decimated by holding onto the past (how's your cable company doing these days?).
Every revolution is an opportunity for prosperity and this AI revolution is no different. This will create exponentially more jobs and opportunities than it possibly replaces, so long as we harness its potential. Embrace the future, my fellow Founders — it pays better.
Oh, and yes, I wrote this with my own hands, not with AI. But for how much longer?
The Emotional Cost of Being a Founder When we talk about building startups, we talk about lots of costs: Staffing costs, the cost of capital, cost per acquisition, and opportunity cost. But we never talk about the biggest cost – the emotional cost.
Is Doing Non-Startup Stuff Good For My Startup? (podcast) What if we knew that time away from our startup was the key to actually making it grow faster?
We're All Afraid of Paper Demons When you start to focus your attention on something that has not happened yet it will create growing anxiety that will hinder what you are truly capable of achieving. Stop worrying about the things that didn’t happen and start planning based on what’s happening now.
Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.