When a new product or technology is introduced there’s a fairly predictable pattern of adoption. The innovators are the first group to say Yes! The laggards are the last. In between the innovators and the laggards lies the messy middle of early adopters and the early and late majorities. Getting through to each group along the product adoption curve is the challenge product marketers face. And if you ask any marketer, they’ll tell you: What works for the innovators won’t work for the laggards; the messaging has to change and evolve.

You may be wondering, What does this have to do with artificial intelligence? It’s a valid question, and I’m caught between two seemingly contradictory answers: Everything. And Nothing. Let me try to explain.

In the case of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, an application I’ve used extensively, the product adoption curve seemed to accelerate at an unprecedented pace as the innovators and early adopters were joined in a matter of weeks by what I can only assume were the early and late majorities. And given the number of active users ChatGPT reached in January, 100 million, I have to wonder if a few of the most skeptical consumers of all, the laggards, decided they wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

As a product, ChatGPT’s extraordinary rate of adoption has been fueled by a rare kind of hyper-virality. For a while, it was all anyone could talk about, and for good reason: There seems to be something fundamentally different about this chatbot. It’s “smart” in a way we haven’t seen before.

But for ChatGPT to become the fastest-growing consumer application in history something else had to be going on too, which is another way of saying this isn’t about the product adoption curve at all. It’s about the world we live in, the mountains of information we create and consume, and the ways in which all of us — especially those of us living in the Global North — are impacted by technology.

Whether we intended to or not, we opened the door for artificial intelligence to become part of our daily lives. The meteoric rise of ChatGPT told OpenAI and their competitors what to do: take their foot off the brake; go all in. With the gas pedal to the floor, some are urging caution, while others race towards their A.I. payday, their eyes firmly fixed on the prize.

Now that artificial intelligence is here, there are some important questions we should ask ourselves:

  • What are we going to do with it?
  • What constraints, if any, do we want to place on the technology?
  • If we adopt the widespread use of A.I. in the workplace, will it put jobs in jeopardy? Are we okay with that?
  • Are the benefits of using A.I. greater than the risks?
  • Where does all of this lead and do we trust Big Tech to take us there?

I suppose there’s another question that deserves our attention as well, one that takes us back to where we started: Should we adopt A.I. quickly or slowly, as innovators or laggards? Over the last few months, I’ve vacillated between both extremes, and I continue to wonder how the decisions we make today will impact us down the road.

With businesses scrambling to monetize it and consumers continuing to develop use cases for it, the A.I. tipping point has arrived. We’ve crossed the threshold into a brave new world, one where chatbots can augment our ability to do just about anything, including write a near-perfect title for this article.

What comes next? Well, that really is anyone’s guess, but I’m certainly hoping our use of A.I. is governed by wisdom, compassion and restraint.

Tom Ward
Tom Ward Communications Consultant

Tom has twenty-five years’ experience helping organizations reach their goals through strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, and communications.