Graeme Beardsell
Apr 11, 2024

What the printing press democratisation of knowledge can teach us about AI

Businesses must embrace AI across operations, services, and strategy or risk becoming obsolete, warns Fujitsu's APAC CEO Graeme Beardsell.

What the printing press democratisation of knowledge can teach us about AI

Few inventions have transformed the world as much as Gutenberg's printing press. Almost six centuries ago, the printing press revolutionised information-sharing by making books broadly available and unlocking human capital. 

Just as the printing press democratised knowledge and sparked the Renaissance, AI is transforming business and brand operations and enhancing productivity by unlocking data to drive better decisions—shifting the focus of human capital towards more strategic and analytical roles. 

Driving efficiency and growth

Recent changes in income and headcount among leading technology companies indicate a shift toward greater use of intellectual capital, primarily driven by AI. Last year, IBM's use of AI resulted in a 357% increase in net income with fewer employees. In the same period, Google leveraged AI to deliver a 23% increase in net income despite a 6% reduction in headcount. 

Tech giants are laying off workers despite soaring profits, igniting fierce debates on AI's role in job displacement. Google's SVP, Philipp Schindler, said the company's restructuring aimed to improve efficiency and productivity, not cut jobs due to AI. 

This reflects a broader industry trend, highlighting the paradox between AI advancements and workforce dynamics. While AI might replace jobs, it also drives efficiency and growth, allowing businesses to focus on innovation and expansion. This could lead to an upside that's not yet evident—similar to the introduction of computers, which initially displaced manual tasks, but ultimately created new industries, job opportunities, and unprecedented productivity levels. 

Unlocking AI's potential

Just as the printing press marked the dawn of a new era, AI promises to reshape society profoundly over the coming decades. Facebook's chief AI Scientist, Yann LeCun, envisions AI amplifying human intelligence and heralding a modern renaissance. AI's impact could revolutionise critical sectors like education, healthcare, and work, addressing global challenges from climate change to healthcare equity. Innovations like Berkeley's automated labs demonstrate the power of merging digital and physical realms, promising swifter, more impactful research that could redefine industries and society. 

The rapid advancement of AI, like the introduction of the printing press, presents opportunities and challenges for big brands. Companies like Kodak, Xerox and Blockbuster became obsolete by ignoring technological shifts. To avoid this fate, businesses, including mine, must embrace AI across operations, services, and strategy. This means harnessing AI for efficiency, diving into data analysis, and pursuing innovative growth pathways to ensure we don't miss our 'Kodak moment'. The future demands we embrace change, invest in AI and commit to this technology's ethical, responsible use to maintain trust in the digital era. 

Economic renaissance through AI

Economists predict AI could significantly boost economic growth, potentially increasing per capita growth rates by 30% annually. This growth could make future generations exponentially wealthier, continuing the rapid advancement of human civilisation. From the invention of the wheel to the internet, humanity has constantly pushed boundaries. AI is the next frontier, offering unparalleled opportunities for innovation and efficiency across industries. 

‌Over the past 10,000 years, civilisation has evolved from cave dwellers to space explorers. We've progressed from agriculture to urbanisation, invented writing, and built monumental structures. The wheel and electricity have revolutionised transportation and daily life. We've navigated the depths of oceans and the vastness of space, linking the world with technologies like the internet. We now stand on the brink of accelerating this progress tenfold in the next 25 years. 

AI is not just a tool but a transformative force poised to unlock a new epoch of enlightenment. Like Gutenberg's press, which ushered in an era of widespread knowledge, AI offers a pathway to unprecedented innovation and growth. Embracing this potential is essential for businesses aiming to lead in the digital age. 

Graeme Beardsell is the CEO at Fujitsu Asia Pacific.


Campaign Asia

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