Self awareness and differentiation

Let’s remember humans are creating the age of AI

Tim Brunelle
3 min readMay 12, 2023

Are your friends and family asking you about AI?

Have you given thought yet to where or how AI might unlock or enable a better version of you and your work?

The joke coming out of Google’s I/O 2023 conference Wednesday (which had gorgeous stage design IMHO), was CEO Sundar Pichai saying “AI” something like 78 times. Was that enough?

Then we had IBM suggesting AI might replace up to 30% of its back office roles. Earlier this week we learned Microsoft will expand its Copilot AI initiative from 20 initial customers to 600. And Meta wants to “introduce AI agents to billions of people.” Though, I suspect the real milestone will be the pivot within Google Search. Once Bard AI results are prioritized at the top of the world’s most visited web page… AI will truly be in everyone’s face.

But at this moment it still feels early.

I’ve been teaching the Future of Advertising course at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design this semester. You can guess our primary focus. Four of my MCAD students are graduating seniors, so they’re entering a world that’s on the precipice of tremendous change. How should they position themselves to take advantage? Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with a group of CEOs about their leadership narrative in the age of AI. How should they position their organizations? I’ve got a theory, but forgive me if it’s not wholly baked just yet.

Marketing asks, “Who’s it for?”

The widget, the policy, the incentive, the new feature — it appeals initially or primarily to a distinct someone. Marketing’s first task is to discern the Who, and specifically, an addressable behavior. If you can manage that marvelous feat, you’re much more likely to change the world.

But in the case of seismic opportunities (i.e. the arrival of computing, software, the Internet, social media, social movements) the roles reverse. We discern ourselves. We opt in. We decide it is for us. In part because there are so many flavors, styles and ways to engage the movement or technology.

Clearly lots of early adopters have decided AI is for them; for us. We’ve identified how AI might unlock a better version of our work. Lots of creatively-minded people see the new tools and comprehend their capacity to re-shape and re-imagine how work gets done.

So I have no doubt IBM’s leadership will figure out how AI code can replace certain back office tasks. Back office culture is another matter entirely. The short term challenge facing leaders won’t be the humans they replace, but the humans who remain. Especially those who are uncertain, and haven’t yet decided how AI “is for them.”

In this moment, I wonder if the issue is less about code and more about communication. More about culture.

Unlocking hyper-humanity

I’m cursed with optimism. So my curiosity is focused on how we embrace, adapt and augment humanity with AI.

As one of the executives put it yesterday, “Can AI help us be more human?”How might AI help us unlock an expanse of underutilized traits, skills, and values that increase our potential? Another executive described the opportunity as “hyper-humanity.” Take the challenge of four generations as diverse as Boomers to Gen Z working together today: Could AI be the means of bridging some differences, of uniting us, of unlocking human purpose?

At this point, and despite the marvels of AutoGPT, AI tools remain inert. Even AutoGPT has to be initiated. We choose it. The chisel remains meaningless without the sculptor; never mind human vision, experience and skill. And while many have identified themselves as sculptors and selected a metaphoric chisel, they remain few.

The age of AI needs even more human culture

Code hasn’t yet distilled team norms, corporate rituals, or the emotions which provoke change. That’s the work humans have to do.

In the context of this still nebulous era, I was thinking about Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker and was pleased to learn that sculpture “suggests a great capacity for action.”

We’re writing the prompts. We’re writing the code. We are the intelligence. At least for the foreseeable future. Let’s make something incredible together.

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Tim Brunelle

I'm a creative enterprise leader, teacher, and entrepreneur living in Minneapolis.