by Javier Cravioto, Delivery Director at Growth Acceleration Partners
Around 10,000 years ago, we humans managed to convince a plant to grow where we wanted, allowing us to invest our time in cultivating the plants we deemed suitable for food in specific locations. This transition freed us from the risks of hunting and the time-consuming nature of gathering. As a result, we gained time for more complex tasks.
Then, approximately 300 years ago, we witnessed the shift from manual labor, to machine-based manufacturing. Naturally, there is too much to discuss regarding this period, particularly concerning working conditions and human rights. However, the ultimate outcome — and where I want to focus in this post — is that this transition granted us additional time to allocate toward more intricate tasks. This abstraction of our roles facilitated significant advancements in communication, transportation, engineering, manufacturing, and even shaped our society as a whole.
Next, 80 years ago came the invention of the computer, particularly the first general purpose electronic computer, followed by the introduction of more affordable computers, which completely revolutionized how we work, research and engineer our tools and world. Humans again required to reinvent themselves, acquiring new skills or being relegated to tasks beyond the immediate impact of these groundbreaking inventions. We had to abstract once again how we did things, operating at higher levels since computers were carrying endless tasks we used to do often with greater precision. Computers require instructions to carry those tasks, and we became the instructors. This granted us additional time to allocate toward more intricate and abstract tasks.
Now we are approaching our present times, starting around 25 years ago, the Internet gained mass public adoption. We saw the emergence of emails, the World Wide Web, E-commerce, etc., and all of these transformative developments and advancements began to completely reshape our methods. Communication changed, the world became interconnected and everything began to accelerate significantly. The pervasive connectivity brought about a surge in data collection to levels where we had to invent new ways to manage it. And interconnectivity brought automation and collaboration to brand new levels. As a result, we were able to further abstract roles, taking a step back and allowing our tools to handle the intricacies, while we gained more time to focus on more abstract tasks.
This same pattern was observed in the realm of software development. Initially, we had Assembly language, which demanded precise step-by-step instructions to computers to move small units of data from our hard drives to memory and processors. This yielded code that ran really fast, but required an in-depth understanding of the specific architecture being used and proved to be painfully slow. Subsequently, the second generation of computer languages arrived with FORTRAN and COBOL, providing a much more user-friendly experience compared to Assembly language. This made software development in general to become faster since it allowed the language to handle specific details and abstracted our interactions with computers. After this, we then had third-generation languages such as C.
We can now build more complicated, yet robust websites in a shorter timeframe. Additionally, we can enhance a website’s maintainability by using a variety of tools that enable us to operate at different levels. This grants us more time to spend on the other significant aspects and ideas. Entrepreneurship also experienced a dramatic improvement as a result of this revolution. Nowadays, anyone can launch an online store, just leverage Software as a Service (SaaS) like Shopify. By doing this, complexities are managed by the platform, thus allowing business owners to focus primarily on the business-related aspects.
Currently, we are seeing the rapid emergence of a new generation of tools: LLMs image, video, text, code generation tools known as artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning tools. The pace at which these tools are being developed is amazing, and these hold great promise and power. They have the potential to revolutionize our approaches, enabling us to automate processes, streamline operations, and redirect our attention to more abstract tasks that align with our human capacity for creativity and innovation.
We are starting to see what Isaac Asimov called “Robot Whisperers.’’ These were humans that were experts at “talking” with tools such as ChatGPT, Copilot, DALL◦E and Midjourney, among many others. These “whisperers’’ had the ability to harness their capabilities and tailor them to suit their specific needs. These tools are not intended to replace us or replace our software development teams; instead, they can help us expedite processes, enabling us to use time more wisely on other more relevant aspects and tasks.
What does this mean if you have software developers working on crucial tools or products for your company? It basically means you and your teams need to adopt an embracing approach toward this new wave of tools. By doing so, your teams can enhance your productivity, enabling you to build more in less time and shorten the duration to achieve returns on your investments. This also means you have faster and more powerful tools to test and accelerate your business ideas, with faster ROI before committing to important investments.
I encourage you to explore and experiment with these tools. Staying ahead of the curve will position your company for success in the dynamic landscape of technological innovation.