I left Twilio in February after nine years of serving on the developer relations team. Instead of hopping back into the job market, I availed myself of their generous severance and spent the last eight months learning about and building with AI. It was obvious to me that these newly released tools were going to change the way that so many of us work and that the best thing I could do for the next chapter of my career was to learn how to build on and with AI – and to teach others what I learned along the way.
A milestone on that journey came last week when I delivered the closing keynote at the Business of Software Conference: Help Humans Do Their Job Better With AI.
I first spoke at the Business of Software in 2013. BoS had long been my dream conference to speak at, as so many of my heroes from the world of internet businesses had been on that stage before. As it happened, I was the first speaker in the conference's history to receive a standing ovation. The encouragement from the BoS community that year changed the trajectory of my life and has continued to do so in the decade since.
Earlier this year, I rung up Mark Littlewood, the owner/organizer of BoS, and showed him a few of the AI-powered demos I’d been working on. He graciously invited me back to the stage and gave me the honor of closing out the show. My talk addressed the existential, ethical, and economic anxieties that folks feel around AI in 2023. I shared what we can learn from Garry Kasparov, the first man to lose his job to AI. I showed several live and interactive demos of tools that folks can start using today to do their job better. I discussed the unique opportunities for software businesses to combine a tailored UI with proprietary data to ship AI-powered features that truly empower customers.
To demo the latest concept, I used retrieval augmented generation to build BoS Bot which lets you ask business questions against the knowledge base of every talk that's been given at BoS in the last fifteen years. You can try it out by emailing a question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The talks and demos were well received, I had a lot of fun on stage, and I spent the rest of the day chatting with CEOs of software companies about how they can get past the anxiety and start using AI to empower their employees and customers.
So much love and thanks to Mark and Jo Littlewood for the space and community they've cultivated at Business of Software over the last fifteen years. Thank you to everyone in the Business of Software community for the amazing conversation, encouragement, and inspiration. Thank you to Mike Russo, Rob Spectre, Ricky Robinett, Katie Gore, and Carl Ryden for your help in preparing this talk. And finally, thank you to Rachel for walking with me on the bumpy road that lead to the BoS stage ten years ago, and again last week.
Below are some of the resources I mentioned in my talk. I'll be writing more about these tools here over the coming weeks – tap the subscribe button below if you'd like to learn more.
If you'd like to chat more about any of these topics, drop me an email: email@example.com
Things I mentioned in my talk
- Heart On My Sleeve - the viral Drake + Weekend Mashup with 6M+ views that neither had anything to do with.
- Modern Times - The 1936 film from Charlie Chaplin reflecting on the fear of the industrial revolution
- The first man to lose his job to AI - What we can learn from Garry Kasparov
- Deep Thinking - Kasparov's book reflecting the 20 years after AI came to the chess industry
- lichess - the best chess site on the internet, an unsung hero of the opensource movement, and a purveyor of fine AI powered chess lessons
- Paper from Harvard and Boston Consulting finding, "consultants using AI were significantly more productive (they completed 12.2% more tasks on average, and completed task 25.1% more quickly), and produced significantly higher quality results (more than 40% higher quality compared to a control group).
- Midjourney - state of the art text-to-image generation
- All the talks from 15 years of Business of Software
- AssemblyAI - state of the art speech-to-text by dashboard or API
- OpenAI's Tokenizer - helps visualize "what is a token?"
- ChatGPT Plus - you should probably be paying $20/month for this.
- The first 1000 miles on our e-bike around Brooklyn (in relation to Sam Altman's tweet that "ChatGPT is an e-bike for the mind")
- Descript - edit video like editing a google doc
- Cursor - an AI first code editor
- Getting started with the OpenAI Chat API
- OpenAI Embeddings API
- Pinecone - a popular vectorstore
- Getting started with Retreival Augmented Generation (RAG)
- Developers, Entrepreneurs, and Depression (my 2013 BoS talk)
- Mental Health - What you Can Do (my 2018 BoS Talk)