Stephen Hawking, in his final book, listed the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as one of the three biggest issues that mankind would have to deal with. Elon Musk said it is “actually a bigger risk to society than cars or planes or medicine”. Yet regulators are miles behind and, on the face of it, stand little chance of getting a grip on this immense technology, given the investors themselves are all at sea as they balance their excitement with skepticism.
There is tension in Silicon Valley behind the excitement, the downturn in tech investment and AI’s amazing power. To quote Gordon Ritter “everyone has stars in their eyes”. As an early backer of Zoom, he is cautious. The winners will win very big and become the largest businesses in the world; Christine Melas-Kyriazi, a partner at Bain Capital, said “if ChatGPT is the iPhone we are seeing a lot of calculator apps. We’re looking for Uber”.
So, what might be the effect on founders, mid-market private equity and debt providers? Firstly, have a look at OpenAI and its offerings, GPT-4 and DALL-E. These technologies have only been available for public use for a few months, yet ChatGPT can already write dissertations to a level where the professor will give them a half-decent 2:1, and DALL-E can produce images that mimic any art style with uncanny realism. The AI is learning exponentially. It is probable that in very little time we will be able to use AI applications to deliver mainstream business solutions – from dubbing on films, to writing social media blogs, forecasting software and, dare I suggest, business plans. These will still require human intervention (for the moment) but I believe we will all need to invest in understanding how to harness this technology or risk becoming as irrelevant as the farmers with scythes or hand-spun looms of the 18th century.
Returning to Professor Hawking, alongside AI on his list of the 3 biggest issues is the future of our planet. Sustainability is central to our lives, becoming an ever-increasing focus for both individuals and businesses.
Polestar has been actively working with a wide range of sustainability-related businesses over the years, including most recently, waste recycling, ESG software, consultancy, and people development & wellness. With our recent award-winning transaction in EVORA Global focusing our minds on the collaborative benefits available across Sustainability, we have taken the opportunity of our imminent website relaunch to pull these together as the core of our sector approach.
Professor Hawking’s third issue, colonising other planets, might seem like a stretch in terms of relevance to most business leaders. However, the real focus is on preparation for a future occurrence, and preparation is, as we all know, key to obtaining the best result. With this in mind, we are about to launch a new club for founders, shareholders and management, Eddystone. I will write separately on this in the next month outlining how we hope to help you prepare for a future transaction and bring together a community of people to share ideas and knowledge to deliver optimised deals.
For now, we have a temporary website where you can register your interest early – click here to sign up now.