During a recent trip, I noticed two abandoned shopping malls. At least eight abandoned grocery stores. Six abandoned hardware stores. And -- although this won't come as a surprise to those who live there -- a startling stream of abandoned street-level shops in New York City.
While I wasn't looking, I couldn't help but notice.
As much as we sometimes might wish otherwise, that's the nature of change. And business.
So what does Mark Cuban feel will drive the next wave of business change?
At CES this year, Cuban said:
If you don't know A.I., you're the equivalent of somebody in 1999 saying, "I'm sure this Internet thing will be OK, but I don't give a shit." If you want to be relevant in business, you have to, or you will be a dinosaur very quickly.
There's going to be A.I. haves and have nots. If you're a have not, you might as well rip out all the computers in your office and throw away your phones. That's how impactful it's going to be.
Cuban has put his mind and money where his mouth is. He frequently recommends books about artificial intelligence--the most recent is Competing in the Age of AI: Strategy and Leadership When Algorithms and Networks Run the World.
And he's committed $2 million to expand his AI Bootcamps Program, an organization that teaches artificial-intelligence skills at no cost to high school students in low-income communities across the country. (Bootcamps are currently taught by A.I. and data-science experts at companies that extensively use A.I. in their business operations, like Walmart and McDonald's.)
According to Cuban:
If you don't know how to use it and you don't understand it and you can't at least at have a basic understanding of the different approaches and how the algorithms work, you can be blindsided in ways you couldn't even possibly imagine.
Fortunately, developing a basic understanding of A.I. is, if not easy, at least simple. Coursera currently lists over 800 A.I.-related courses, many of them free. Google offers a free machine learning crash course; it the same course every new Google engineer takes. Udacity offers a free course for those who want to learn the basics of artificial intelligence and how it can be applied to business.
"The world's first trillionaires," Cuban says, "are going to come from somebody who masters A.I. and all its derivatives and applies it in ways we never thought of."
While most of us don't aspire to be trillionaires, as the business landscape continues to change, we do all hope to stay as close to the leading edge as possible.
If it turns out that Cuban (along with Gates and Musk and Buffett) is right and AI is the new Internet, it's time for all of us to "give a [crap]" and start getting up to speed.