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TECH TALK: Communication—transparency, privacy, sensitivity and speed

AI is reshaping communication by providing new platforms and tools that enhance our ability to convey information quickly and efficiently. This shift is not just about speed; it's also about the depth and quality of interactions.

Editor’s note: Besides following developments in tech, our author is also a musical composer (Juilliard-trained), He has provided a musical composition for you to listen to while reading this column. This piece is called “May 16.”

What do we say—and to whom, why, and how? Thoughtful communication is a fundamental act and skill that can give us the control we need.

Many of us grew up primarily speaking in person to single individuals. Sometimes, we would even send letters to single individuals. Amazingly, many people in certain generations still usually talk on the phone to single individuals. But, these are no longer the primary ways that many people communicate. Most young people would rather text than call. Much of communication is batch processing to groups, not single individuals.

The communication landscape in our lives has changed more dramatically than anything else I can think of.  When I went to college in 1970 and majored in physics, I operated a single transistor, and I used a slide rule to calculate how to do it. In 1980, our modems were 110 baud (bits per second). In 2020, we got gigabit fiber optic cables running into some of our houses.

Last week, Apple announced that its new iPad M4 chip has 28 billion transistors and performs 38 trillion operations per second (TOPS). It is mind-boggling to go from a single transistor on a workbench with an external power supply to 28 billion transistors powered by a battery in your pocket. It is equally mind-boggling to go from 110 bits per second to 1 billion bits per second. Two weeks ago, the fastest Intel chip was 11 TOPS, and last week, Apple announced the M4 with 38 TOPS! Billions of transistors now handle billions of bits per second, enabling trillions of operations per second!

It is clearly a new ball game.

This image was created by Howard Lieberman with the assistance of DALL-E-2, an AI software program.

It is not surprising that we may need to rethink communication. Oh, and one more thing: We are going to need to use AI to deal with the speed of change.

The pace of change in AI is dizzying. It’s unrelentingly fast. So much is happening every day. And that rush of innovation is taking place against a backdrop of dramatic uncertainty—with elections taking place in more than 50 countries, wars on multiple continents, and a variety of shifting economic indicators—the likes of which we’ve rarely seen before.

Here’s what Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, has said about AI: “I hate to tell you, but I think this stuff is under-hyped. Not over-hyped.”

The rapid evolution of AI and technology has indeed transformed the way we communicate and interact with the world. The shift from personal, one-on-one interactions to digital, batch-processed communication reflects the broader changes in our technological landscape. The advancements from single transistors to the staggering capabilities of modern chips like the M4 are genuinely astonishing.

AI is reshaping communication by providing new platforms and tools that enhance our ability to convey information quickly and efficiently. For instance, AI can now assist in drafting messages, summarizing conversations, and even managing complex customer service interactions. This shift is not just about speed; it’s also about the depth and quality of interactions. AI tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated, capable of understanding context, nuance, and the subtleties of human language.

This image was created by Howard Lieberman with the assistance of DALL-E-2, an AI software program.

Moreover, the latest advancements in AI technology are not limited to communication. They are revolutionizing industries across the board, from healthcare to cybersecurity and even the pharmaceutical sector. AI’s ability to process vast amounts of data at incredible speeds is opening up new possibilities for innovation and efficiency.

As we navigate this new era, it’s essential to consider the implications of these changes. While AI can significantly enhance our capabilities, it also raises questions about privacy, transparency, and the nature of human interaction in a digital age. Balancing these concerns with the benefits of AI will be a critical challenge moving forward.

In summary, AI is an integral part of the rapidly changing landscape of communication and technology. Its impact is felt across various aspects of life, necessitating a re-evaluation of how we connect and interact with each other and the world around us.

We need to think about just how differently we have come to communicate over the last few decades. Things we take for granted, like privacy, are not the same. Accidental batch processing by simply “replying to all” creates other problems. Just because we have blazing speeds and extraordinary ease of communication does not mean we should blindly embrace them. Our in-boxes are too full for anyone to process. The amount of information we are trying to communicate and absorb is absurd. Mindfulness is called for at this time when we communicate. It is easy to misstep.

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