In his book Start with Why, Simon Sinek discusses The Law of Diffusion of Innovation. He breaks the population into five groups, from innovators (representing 2.5% of the population) through to laggards (16% of the population), and discusses the process through which innovation is adopted by people by moving through the groups. In order to be successful, he argues, companies should market towards innovators and early adopters as the early and late majority won’t try out something new unless they know people who have already experienced it.
Someone who waits in line overnight for every single new release of the iPhone is an innovator. Someone who finally switches to a smart phone only because flip phones are no longer being sold anywhere would be a laggard.
Although I’d love to think of myself as an early adopter, I’m pretty sure I’m not (so it’s pointless to even mention being an innovator). On a good day, I fall into the early majority, though there are definitely spaces where I’m more of a late majority. I don’t like change. I don’t like ambiguity. I definitely like to know other people have tried something (and not had their lives completely ruined) before I venture into the newness. I like to know I can be an expert at something (and that there are lots of resources to help support me) before I delve into it. But then I’m all in.
I’ve been thinking about where I personally am on this spectrum pertaining to AI and where I think we as a population are regards to the diffusion of innovation. The fact is that AI is already a part of our daily lives, whether or not we recognize it through voice assistants (hello, Siri), image recognition for cell phones, medical technology, drones, social media algorithms, Spotify and Netflix, mobile check deposit capabilities, Google Maps, Uber and Lyft app, video games, predictive search, autocorrect, and so much more. So, in some ways, AI has reached all of the way through to the laggards. In other ways, we’re still in the innovation stage as many people, when given a conscious choice, avoid all things AI. That makes placement on the spectrum really challenging, especially as we consider that what we consider “AI” and its capabilities changes almost daily, resetting the progression.
I’ve known about the rise of AI for years – read an article here or there, watched a video, even experienced it in my life. And, yet, ChatGTP seems different, and I’m not totally sure why. It might be because I feel threatened (I love writing blogs; what if a computer can do it better?). It might be because I interact with a lot of people in the field of education, and this has disruptive power (What constitutes plagiarism?). It might be that, for me, this is the tipping point in recognizing the power of AI in general.
But, ready or not, the time has come.
With that in mind, here are a few places to start moving yourself along that spectrum to fully embrace AI into our lives:
We’re often the most weary of things we don’t understand or know, so take some time just to play. Visit OpenAI’s website and just test out ChatGPT (or GPT-4, if you want to be really innovative). Ask a few silly questions. See what happens.
Consider your philosophy of AI
What is the role of AI in your life right now? And what would you like it to be? Do you use it only when you don’t realize you do and/or when you have no other option…or do you actively seek AI alternatives to tasks when possible? What questions do you have about the technology and its capabilities (and ethical concerns and possibilities…), and how can you seek out those answers?
Try turning something over to AI
Hate writing emails? There’s an app for that. Want to see what the clothes will look like on you before you order? Enter avatars. Not sure what to read next? The algorithm has you covered. Think about a problem or challenge that you have in your life, and check out what the AI are options are that could help make your life just a little bit easier. Then reflect. And maybe do it again.
Recognize that it is changing our world
Chat GPT launched at the end of November, and we’ve already seen a more advanced version (GPT-4). All of the large tech companies are in a bit of an arms race now to catch up/leap frog/get into the arena, so expect to see lots of advances very quickly. And now that we’re here, we’re not going back.
For me, personally, I am so interested to see how this disrupts education (I really hope it does!). I hope it gets us thinking about what our kids really need to know and be able to do and how we can really prepare them for a world that looks pretty different from the world we entered after we left formal education. I hope it forces conversations and changes that are decades overdue because we really don’t have a choice but to rethink all that we are doing.
Education as a sector is not especially innovative, usually waiting for outside pressures to dictate changes that need to be made and only making those changes when there is no other choice (hello, late majority and laggards!). We’re not quite there yet, so no is our change to jump ahead in order to not leave our students behind.
Early majority? Early adapters? One can certainly hope!