There’s a quote, probably falsely attributed as an Ancient Greek proverb that states, “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” Whether it’s legitimately ancient or not, it’s a fantastic way to think about where we are today, when artificial intelligence and similar tools start rocketing us towards a future we can scarcely imagine.
What trees will you plant? What world do you want to create for your customers, for your business, for your employees, for your community? Does it matter whether you’ll sit in the shade of those trees? Or is it more important that we move forward in a positive way to create a world where our children and grandchildren and society at large can enjoy the shade?
This episode of Thinks Out Loud takes a look into that future. Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.
What Trees Will You Plant? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 380) — Headlines and Show Notes
Show Notes and Links
- We Live in the Future (Thinks Out Loud Episode 274)
- Should Your Business Use ChatGPT? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 379)
- Revisiting 2023’s Most Important Trends in Digital Marketing (Thinks Out Loud)
- AI Won’t Steal Your Job: Smart People Who Put AI to Work Will (Thinks Out Loud Episode 208)
- Digital is Like Gravity (Thinks Out Loud Episode 205)
- Will AI Kill Your Brand? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 204)
- Is Artificial Intelligence Still a Big Trend for Your Business? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 311) – Tim Peter & Associates
- How to Balance Technology and Humanity in Customer Experience (Thinks Out Loud Episode 378)
- Big Digital Marketing Trends: Who Speaks For Your Business? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 377)
- Big Trends: Does Marketing Have a Future? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 375)
- Big Digital Marketing Trends: Customer Experience is Cool (Thinks Out Loud Episode 375)
- Building a Human Brand in the Age of AI (Thinks Out Loud Episode 398)
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Running time: 17m 37s
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Transcript: What Trees Will You Plant? (Thinks Out Loud Episode 380)
Well, hello again everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter, and this is episode 380 of the Big Show. Thank you so much for tuning in. I think we have a really cool show for you today.
We Live in the Future
My company, Tim Peter and Associates, the folks who are behind this podcast, turned 12 years old the other day, which has me in a vaguely reflective mood. I’m not one to look back much; I prefer to look ahead. But obviously you have an anniversary, you think about what has happened and what that means for where we’re going to go in the future. I started my business career by building websites. I really got into business because I built websites, probably 25 years ago at this point.
Yesterday, I collaborated with an artificial intelligence to produce a new webpage, which included copy and HTML and CSS. Admittedly, some of that was for testing purposes as opposed to something we’re going to deploy, but it shows how far we’ve come at the time. AsI’m recording this episode, we are testing rockets to Mars.
I like to say we live in the future. I don’t know what illustrates that more than that, right? We’re building starships and spaceships and artificial intelligences and the like. We live in the future. It’s a fact.
Artificial Intelligence and the Future
And to that end, I saw a demo the other day of how Microsoft will incorporate its AI into Office. They’re calling it Microsoft 365 Copilot. It is extraordinary. My favorite line in the demo was somebody said, "Say goodbye to pivot tables." Because you won’t need to know how to create the pivot table. You’ll simply ask Excel to do a slice of the data for you, and the machine will take care of it for you.
I bet some folks hear that and have a little trepidation. Saying, "Oh my gosh, machines are going to take away our need to do pivot tables. That’s something I’m really good with at," you know?
I mean, I’m sure that’s something you’re thinking — some of you anyway. But before you get too upset about machines taking away your need to do pivot tables.
How Technology Matures
First, what is wrong with you? Does anyone love doing tables? I mean, if you do, good for you. But holy moly you’re probably in the minority.
Secondly, it probably won’t take away the need to always do pivot tables, at least not for a while. I’ve used ChatGPT and other tools to do things like write some Python code and some AppleScript code for me, and it’s useful. It absolutely improves my productivity. It also takes a few tries to get it right. It’s never been perfect so far. It will get "perfect-er" over time for sure, but it will not eliminate every task, at least not any time soon.
Third, this has always been the way technology works.
What My Dad’s Professional Journey Means to You
I know I’ve told the story on the show many times about my dad, my late father, starting his career as a loan clerk in a bank. He used to write down the loan payments and balances in a big physical book, a journal, every day. And once a week his department would consolidate all the daily journal entries into the main journal. For all practical purposes, he was like Bob Cratchit in Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol." You know, if Ebenezer Scrooge or Ben Franklin were somehow transported forward a hundred years into their future, into my dad’s office, they would have felt completely at home with the record keeping technology.
Elevators, electric lights and, oh, I don’t know, women in the office probably would’ve given them a stroke, but I digress.
You know, today you do what my dad did with a spreadsheet and never think twice about what was lost. That’s a good thing. That’s how technology always has worked. The story that I loved this past week that really illustrated that for me was one where somebody used an AI to create new music and copying styles of existing artists and the like, obviously, You’ve heard me say many times when you invent the ship, you invent the shipwreck.
There are downsides there and lots of questions we need to think through in terms of intellectual property and in terms of copyright and all the rest. I don’t mean to diminish that there are big questions we need to address there and need to figure out as a society. I also think if we’ve entered a time when machines can create.
We are entering a magical time that’s got a lot of upside. Don’t let the threats of the shipwreck outweigh the value of the ship. And again, we’ve seen this before. I opened by saying I started my business career building websites. I started my first career as a musician. I worked in recording studios and the like and the fight at the time.
It was between people using synthesizers and quote unquote real musicians. There was a rampant fear that technology was going to kill a lot of jobs, and I want to be fair, it undoubtedly did kill some jobs. It also deeply democratized the process of music making It democratized the process of recording audio.
It democratized the process of distributing audio. I have studio capabilities in my office today and in my home today that rival almost anything you could do in a professional studio 30 years ago and at roughly 1% of the cost. This very podcast, it’s recording and distribution would’ve cost thousands of dollars per episode when I worked in studios.
I know this because that’s something I actually used to do. One of my weirder gigs when I was working in studios was we had a large cement. And once a month as a client. And once a month they would come in, their team would come in, a product manager, a sales manager, a marketing manager. We’d set them up with microphones and they would record a 45 minute discussion about their products and ongoing promotions and all of that sort of thing.
Basic marketing that you would do. They just happened to be talking about. You know, you’ve heard of people say it was more boring than watching paint dry. I was literally listening to these folks talk about cement drying for 45 minutes or so every month, which I mean, good for them. Obviously this was a necessary product.
These were cool folks. I don’t mean to malign anybody, but as a young, you know, musician and recording engineer, I was like, oh yeah, I’m living the glory right now. I’m living the dream. Right. We then edit that recording and transferred onto cassettes that they’d mail to their field sales reps. It was for all practical purposes, an analog podcast.
We would charge them roughly 500 to 750 bucks to do the recording and do the editing and things along those lines. Because we weren’t doing mass production of the cassettes because it was time consuming to run off the cassettes, we would charge them roughly five bucks per cassette for maybe 50 cassettes.
You know, we factor in some ancillary charges. Their total cost was somewhere between $800 and a thousand dollars per month. Plus, of course, their costs for mailing to the 50 different addresses around the world that they would send these cassettes to. In today’s dollars, that’s roughly 1,750 to 2000 bucks a month.
Every time I do an episode of this podcast every week, you know, it takes a few weeks off here and there like I did last week. I was fighting a cold and everything, so let’s call it maybe 40 episodes per year. Even if I could do those for a thousand dollars an. 40 grand a year for this podcast would be cost-prohibitive.
It would be cost-prohibitive for lots of businesses. My entire studio setup cost far, far less than 40 grand. Hosting for this podcast is maybe 50 bucks a month move, not counting for my time, which I admit is, you know, a pretty hand wave notion here. This show costs my company less than a thousand dollars per year.
That cement company was paying that amount every month, 30 years ago. And you’ve probably noticed I’m not the only person doing a podcast. I’m not the only business doing a podcast. I’m not the only business doing content marketing. What we do today, what we get to do today, what technology enables us to do today is unthinkable.
If you go back even 30 years, let alone to the 1950s when my father was a clerk in a bank, that’s the ship. That’s the value that outweighs the risks of the shipwreck. And I’d like to point out, notice I’m still working. I have a career, I have a profession. I make a pretty good income, as do the people on my team.
That company, that cement company still exists as do people who work for them. As do all the people I worked with in the studio except for the handful who’ve retired cuz we’re talking about something 30 years ago. They’re all still working. They’re not all recording engineers any longer. They’re not all musicians any longer, but they’re still working.
Employment is at its lowest levels we’ve seen in my entire lifetime, and actually as low as it’s been in recorded history of the United States. So something is going right here. There is a ship that outweighs the risks of the ship. There are a, there’s a lot of bad news in the world. Pretty much every day.
You don’t really need to go looking for it to find it. We also have to admit, sometimes we go looking for that bad news. Sometimes we actively seek it out. You know the term doom Scrolling. This is such a common behavior that we sit there on our phones and read negative headline after negative headline after risk, after threat, after scary that we actually had to come up with a name for it.
I started this podcast by saying, I don’t like to focus on the past. I like to focus on the future. And there are two quotes that I’ve been thinking a lot about the last week, or two or three given the anniversary of my business. The first is from Eleanor Roosevelt. It says, the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
And the second, which is allegedly an old Greek proverb, but the evidence for this is fairly thin. Says society grows when old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit, the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Society grows when old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit.
What are you choosing to do today? Are you doom scrolling? Are you seeking out the bad news? Are you seeking out the shipwreck and not the ship? Or are you thinking about the dreams that you have? The dreams that you have for your business, the dreams that you have for yourself, the dreams that you have for your family, the dreams that you have for society around.
What trees will you plant even if you don’t intend to sit under them? The are people launching rockets to Mars, or at least trying to. People are teaching machines to make art and make beauty and sing. What are your dreams? What trees will you plant? Let me know because I sure can’t wait to hear what you’re going to do.
Show Closing and Credits
Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for this episode as well as an archive of all past episodes by going to timpeter.com/podcast. Again, that’s timpeter.com/podcast. Just look for episode 379.
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