How to prepare for the AI future (that isn't here yet)

Wild Tech
By Grant Wild*
Monday, 22 April, 2024

How to prepare for the AI future (that isn't here yet)

Most high-end wine fanciers, especially in Australia, are familiar with a variety of wine called Sémillon. While it sports a wide variety of flavours and regional distinctions, the one I particularly like has a catch.

If you’re going to drink it, you have two windows to consider. The first stops at the two-year mark, after which you must wait at least eight more years to drink it again. You probably won’t like what you taste if you start drinking it at any point during its ‘dull phase’, where it will lack the maturity and bouquet it is just beginning to develop.

It might be cruel and anachronistic to suggest we’re in a similar dull phase for AI — especially with the just-announced power of Nvidia’s Blackwell chip. However, aside from the immediate job losses, eye-watering stock evaluations and subsequent palace intrigue, I’m seeing a profound dearth of legitimately transformative use cases emerging from the current boom. Just look around you: has this technology untangled the unruly snarl of traffic in the CBD? Not from where my car is idling. Can it write a legal contract? Sure, but anyone who thought it would save them time and money ended up with their pants around their ankles because the law it drew from was too old or passed in a different jurisdiction it was written for.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to see here. Something big is indeed coming, but the revolution is not here yet. And while there’s opportunity for a select few, there are just as many AI companies that have collapsed from making the wrong bets. One homegrown example is Appen, which supplied much of the language feeds to Alphabet and Microsoft. As the technology shifted away from its business model, Appen’s stock dropped from $35 to 39 cents.

For the CFOs and CTOs of those non-AI companies wondering right now whether you should pencil in an investment in either Oracle NetSuite or Microsoft — now fortified with Copilot — these sorts of choices are thankfully not as existential. From a digital transformation standpoint, one should guide one’s actions by a simple mantra: Watch. Wait. Pause. Let’s consider these in reverse.


You don’t have to do too much looking under the hood to find that some tech companies are rebadging the same features they’ve sold for years as ‘AI’, now that it’s all the rage. For such companies, it’s also a tacit admission to investors of abject defeat given the current moment. However, it’s also possible that your current software landscape already possesses the ability to do much of what the current AI models promise, whether that’s personalising emails or automating invoices, and ultimately transforming your business processes.


With AI, it’s much less important to have the latest technology than it is to prepare for it. AI models feast on data, and your business may only be so prepared to take advantage. Some business models, on the other hand, may not need to wait very long at all. AI in particular can potentially speed up the procedures of randomised clinical trials for medications, where data points are structured and governed very closely. Other use cases, such as anything involving IoT, lidar/radar or other types of data, are in the Sémillon category, where it will take 5–10 years for a critical mass of data to be organised in a truly groundbreaking fashion. Only you know where you belong within this continuum.


Watch for the applications to emerge gradually from the infrastructure that’s currently being built out. Bear in mind that there was, at one point, an ‘AI winter’ where the technology lagged behind the ambition for decades. Arguably, blockchain is one of these technologies as well. However, it probably won’t take decades for AI to come out of its rut. Once we start seeing once-intractable problems yield under its might — like vaccines for certain types of cancer or precise predictions of weather patterns — we’ll know we’re out of the dull phase for certain.

One caveat: society’s members will have to let go of some of their privacy in order to reap some of these benefits. This will also have to be negotiated with during the dull phase. But that’s the price to be paid for the benefits to be reaped from this new technology. Those benefits can be reaped by anyone, including you, and no, it’s not too late for a business to get involved — in fact, quite the opposite. Now, however, is the time to get prepared for the applications to come. Once you’re properly positioned with the right data elements, then it’s time to break out the Sémillon and learn that the hardest work is often done when no one is watching.

*Grant Wild is the CEO and Managing Director of government and private sector IT company Wild Tech. He has a deep background in ERP and manufacturing and a passion for supporting Australian industries in achieving their modernisation, digital transformation and innovation objectives. He previously held executive and management roles at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), ASG and Brightside.

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