I don’t think there are many authors who are more perfectly positioned for writing this book. Kai-Fu Lee:
- was the founding president of Google China
- held executive positions at both Microsoft and Apple
- worked in venture capital in both Silicon Valley and in Beijing’s tech sector
The book covers the world of artificial intelligence (AI) that we are quickly entering. Kai-Fu Lee says we are currently in the age of implementation when it comes to AI. I would have assumed we were in the age of discovery, but no, it’s being implemented. That means it’s a lot closer than we think. And it’s coming for our jobs.
One extraordinary example he gave of AI’s power is of a Chinese phone app called Smart Finance that provides loans based upon unique criteria. The app asks for access to some of your phone’s data and then bases a lending decision partly on your battery charge level, how fast you type in your birthday, and other parameters. These are things a regular loan officer when never think, or know to consider.
Consider the ramifications. This app can make better decisions on who will pay back a loan. This app (and others like it) has the potential to not just wipe out a few jobs here and there, but entire industries. Bank loans, mortgages, FICO scores, etc. These are major shifts we’re talking about, and they will hit white collar jobs first.
Some of the really fascinating content in the book dealt with the differences between the USA and China and how based upon those differences, each country will do better in certain aspects of AI implementation.
The book also took an unexpected twist when Kai-Fu describes being diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma at age 53. It caused him to look back over his extremely successful life and realize that he’d been living it like an algorithm. He’d taken on the tech world’s obsession with optimization and had a machine-like mentality that was not conducive to his deep desires. He described the “deep, soul-aching regret over the way I had lived my life.”
Before reading this book, I was hoping to learn how to prepare myself so that I wouldn’t lose my job as AI begins doing more and more jobs better than humans. I was hoping for a step by step list on how to prepare for this future. But instead, in Kai-Fu Lee’s insight after his diagnosis, I think he actually reveals the answer on how we can thrive in this new world. It’s by focusing on our humanity.
If my focus is on greater and greater productivity, I am ultimately trying to compete with AI, and I will never win that race. But, if I focus on greater and greater humanity, that is something that AI cannot match (well, at least for now :0). In one of last year’s books, Robot-Proof, author Joseph Aoun said it’s our creativity that will help us thrive in the future. It’s tying disparate pieces together that result from inquisitiveness and a pursuit of lifelong learning.
This is a book that everyone should read because everyone will be impacted by AI in the very near future.