It’s been almost a month since I wrote my last newsletter. Not that I didn’t have anything to share - I actually have tons of stuff, wait for it - but sometimes I need to take a break from my routines to look at the big picture.
It’s a little bit like going on a hike, if you are always looking at where you put your feet and never stop to look at the view, why are you even walking?
So one of the things I worked on in this month is my first TEDx talk in the beautiful city of Barletta, in the south of Italy. You’ll see the video within a month, but today I want to spoiler the message I shared on stage. I think it encapsulates why I do what I do, and it’s the view I enjoyed in my month-long break from my “work hike”.
The theme of the TEDx was “Vita Nova” (“new life”). Vita Nova is the title of a 13th century text by Dante Alighieri, in which the poet celebrates Love, the force that purifies and renovates life.
I wanted to talk about how AI empowers us to change and improve our lives. That’s more or less what I’ve been saying during all my career, so I thought it was going to be easy to put it in a 10 minutes speech.
Turns out, that wasn’t the case. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was something that didn’t sound right in this narrative.
Is it really AI that we need to thank for all this technological progress? Is it AI that cut Data Centers' emissions almost in half, that democratized access to medicine in low-served areas of the world, or help people with hearing disabilities navigate the world?
That’s the story that the media tell us. “AI is disrupting energy”, “AI is democratizing healthcare”, “AI is revolutionizing” blablabla.
I don’t know you, but my computer hasn’t woken up this morning and disrupted an industry of its choice. I also know one AI expert or two, and I can guarantee you that their computers aren’t smarter or more entrepreneurial than ours.
If I look at all the successful AI projects I’ve come across, my respect doesn’t go to the neural networks, the algorithms or the bits of data. My respect and admiration goes to the people behind the projects.
The manager or entrepreneur that had the idea, and fought for the funds to turn it into reality. The people who trusted this vision and funded it. The data scientists who wrote the code. The domain experts who helped them interpret the data. Whoever collected the data. The designer who made the product user-friendly. The project managers who kept everyone working together.
All these people are the ones we need to thank for the products that are improving our lives. AI is just the tool they used to make their ideas come to life.
AI is not changing the world. The people who use AI to turn their ideas into reality are.
Humanity is facing an identity crisis. As technology takes more and more space in our lives, we start fearing it. We worry it will take our jobs, make us obsolete, become smarter than us.
I think the problem originates from this mistake: we picked the wrong protagonist of this technological renaissance.
We are the protagonists. We, flesh and bones, messy human beings, are the ones in control. This is the mindset shift that you need to do to go from a fearful, passive animal that fears losing its spot on top of the food chain, to a human being who’s empowered by technology to build the future it wants.
It’s a simple change of perception with a huge impact on our mindset and work: you need to realize that behind every technology product there are humans like you. Technology is just a tool in your hands.
The question is: what are you going to build with it?