Ahead of the Curve

We are in a race. It seems like a hopeless race that we are doomed to lose. If you are reading this, however, you still have a chance. Not because this post or the ones that follow are masterpieces of unearthly wisdom. I wish they were. You still have a chance entirely because of you. Because you are the one reading this. 

Let me explain. 

I am writing this the week OpenAI announced ChatGPT-4o (the strangest name ever given to a product release). My LinkedIn feed is full of posts telling me how this version will change my life forever (and not for the first time). Of course, if you read this statement in a couple of months, it would be laughable because by then, other life-changing breakthroughs will have been unleashed upon us. The same instant experts who seem to know already how this release will help us be more productive, more creative, and more amazing people in general (before they have used it for more than five minutes) will soon remind us why we must continue running full steam ahead, ditch 4o and adopt ChatGPT-5z (or whatever it will be called). If you want to be relevant and keep your job (let alone succeed), you’d better run faster. If you don’t want to be left behind, you must join the race, whether you like it or not. 

We don’t have to wait until the next OpenAI event to realize that we are doomed to run on this hamster wheel for the foreseeable future because as I write these words, Google is announcing that search is dead and AI will replace it too. Yet another thing less for us to do. One more thing mediated to us so we won’t have to spend time reading, processing, and deciding for ourselves. 

If you think this is why the race seems hopeless, wait; there’s more. 

Social media is bombarding us with content. Mostly shallow content. Its goal is not to make us wiser, think, or open our minds. It is quite the opposite. Social media is designed for shallowness. It rewards engagement but not depth, enragement but not nuance. The chances for a meaningful piece of content that goes slightly beyond surface level becoming viral is near zero. 

As we consume social media content, we gradually become as shallow as it is. If you wish to create and share content with the world, there isn’t much around to encourage you to explore, research, and create more nuanced (probably longer) content. Chances are that the algorithms (or the audience) will penalize your posts if you dare to go down this road. 

Then, there’s the way we communicate. What was once the most prominent trait of the human species is rapidly becoming a faint memory. We are flooded with emails and text messages; we waste too much time in meetings; we find it hard to keep track of conversations, let alone harness them to create real value and promote our goals. Social media highly influences the way we communicate. We pay more attention to short, snappy messages and have little bandwidth for depth and nuance, no matter how crucial they are when we actually need to achieve things together. 

To many of us, the race feels lost because these three phenomena are closely related and affect each other in the worst possible way. The feeling that we are spinning our wheels results from each of these forces feeding the two others. The technologies that should have helped us connect, communicate, and be productive are intensifying the problem instead of providing a solution. 

With AI-based tools, it is easier now than ever before to create and share content. It is also easier to consume content — or should I say, let the machine consume it for us and settle with a brief mechanical summary. People are already sending their AI assistant to meetings on their behalf, replacing the opportunity to co-create with a shallow summary of what others said… if their colleagues bothered to show up in the flesh, of course. 

The way I see it, we have only two options. The first is to keep running, blindly adopting each new technology and communication hack, and hoping for the best. If we do that, a few of us might still be relevant, leading by trying everything first and waiting for the rest to follow while we look for the next big thing in parallel. With this option, however, most of us will be “the rest,” continually trying to catch up while catching our breath.

The second option seems radical, but it is our best option. It requires practice, but ultimately, nothing could be more natural — we must return to basics. No, you don’t need to ditch your phone, laptop, or even your favorite AI companion. What we should do, however, is relearn to think, read, listen, process, observe, reflect, explore, and express our ideas clearly and in-depth. And we have to do all that by ourselves. 

This is what makes us human, and if we just re-embrace these natural skills, we will be just fine. Instead of trying to win the race, we will redefine it. Instead of running with the pack, we will be ahead of the curve, but not because we have managed to catch up. We will be ahead of the curve by getting there from a completely different direction. 

Easy to say but harder to do. Not easy, but possible. Spoiler alert: it’s all about slowing down, reducing noise, and insisting on keep doing what we are wired to do.

Welcome to the incomplete, unstructured, practically random guide to being ahead of the curve by doing what we once did best: being creative, communicating creatures.

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