Startup entrepreneur and investor Ben Gilbert, co-founder and managing director of Pioneer Square Labs and PSL Ventures, is always on the lookout for the next big tech wave. He acknowledges that there have been plenty of false starts in the industry in the past: augmented and virtual reality, “personal audio computing” and so on.
But Gilbert, who also co-hosts the popular “Acquired” podcast, didn’t hesitate when asked what he thinks will be the most important technology of 2023.
“ChatGPT based on GPT 4,” he said, referring to a future version of OpenAI’s conversational chatbot that runs on the next iteration of the AI company’s large language model.
In its current form, ChatGPT is attracting widespread interest because it can (mostly accurately) answer questions even to simple requests. It is a leading example of the growing popularity of generative artificial intelligence as a tool for creating content ranging from sonnets to abstract art.
In a sign of the technology becoming mainstream, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella boasted at the company’s annual shareholder meeting that the AI model that powers ChatGPT was trained on Microsoft’s Azure cloud supercomputer. Microsoft is a major investor and key strategic partner in OpenAI.
“I think despite all the hype around generative AI, it’s been underplayed. We’re living in an App Store moment,” Gilbert said, referring to the opportunities created for startups by the 2008 launch of Apple’s iPhone app marketplace.
“I feel like what we’re seeing now with ChatGPT is so mind-blowing,” he added. “There’s a whole new frontier of people who are excited to build things that create value for customers on this device.”
Recent conversations within Pioneer Square Labs have focused on how much of their focus is on generative AI, and Gilbert questions whether it should be complete focus. (No, or at least not yet.)
Gilbert and Acquired co-host David Rosenthal were the business and technology leaders who spoke with me about the challenges of the past year and their outlook for the future at the GeekWire Gala on December 4th. We’ve recorded and compiled responses for this week’s episode of the GeekWire Podcast.
Fittingly, before the event I asked ChatGPT to help brainstorm.
Creepily, with a few questions, the AI was thinking along the same lines as me. I’m a little hesitant to say this because I’m worried that I’m not imaginative enough when coming up with questions.
That said, I’ve learned from experience that the best way to go in these situations is to be clear and simple. Questions that are too complex or creative confuse people and kill conversations, especially at parties.
In this way, ChatGPT was on target. It is a clear example of how AI is increasingly proving that it can at least augment and complement knowledge workers. I was already planning to ask a variation of the second question on ChatGPT’s list, about the biggest challenges everyone faced in 2022 and how they managed to overcome them.
To be sure, the answers to the question of the most important technology of 2023 were not limited to AI. Sara Lindquist of venture capital firm FUSE acknowledged the popular trend, but pointed in a different direction.
“I think a lot of the answers here tonight are probably going to be around generative artificial intelligence, which we here at FUSE are certainly bullish on,” Lindquist said, referring to portfolio companies Pictory and WellSaid Labs. However, he said he is a proponent of technology that “empowers the frontline,” including “frontline workers, industrial IoT, real-world devices, etc.”
Jeff Sears, co-founder and managing partner of TalentReach, said augmented and virtual reality remains a key trend and focus for many of the clients the Seattle-based staffing agency works with.
Mark Nelson, who recently stepped down as CEO of Salesforce Tableau Software, cited the continued importance of data analytics and visualization (Tableau’s specialty) in the context of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Allume Group founder Andrea Leigh, an e-commerce and retail industry consultant and educator, pointed out that there is an ongoing need for technology to bridge the worlds of brick-and-mortar stores and online shopping.
The shift to AI-powered prescriptive analytics was one of the key points of a larger panel discussion at the GeekWire Gala with Leigh and others who collaborate on “The CPG Guys” podcast:
Technology Alliance CEO Laura Ruderman joked that she hopes the technology will solve the problem of long lines at SeaTac Airport. In earnest, he said there is still a need for better technology for hybrid conferences like the Policy Matters: Innovation Basics event Tech Alliance held last week.
Matt Oppenheimer, CEO of Remitly, a provider of international money transfers and financial services for immigrants and their families, presented a global perspective. Continued growth in smartphone adoption and affordable broadband access will continue to create a much more connected world, he said.
Later it occurred to me: how would ChatGPT answer the question about the most important technology of 2023? His answer was basic and perhaps obvious, but also impressive and humbling, as he referred to AI in general terms without citing himself as an example.
But the last question I asked everyone was not inspired by ChatGPT or any other bot, and it generated the sharpest and most inspiring responses from those I spoke to:
What is your biggest hope for the new year?
“It’s an opportunity for people with differing opinions to have civil conversations,” Ruderman said.
Oppenheimer said he hopes to “develop a deeper understanding of those who are different from us,” away from the silos and isolation that the pandemic has accelerated.
Others echoed these sentiments. Listen to the full podcast for more.
I asked ChatGPT the same question just to be sure.
Just one for humanity…for now.
What do you think will be the most important technology of 2023? Send an email or voice memo to [email protected] to be considered for inclusion and publication in a future GeekWire episode.
Listen above or subscribe to GeekWire on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen.