Tech

From Automobiles to AI: How Revolutions Reshape Our World

In a year marked by swift transformations, the sovereigns of ChatGPT and Sora have successively emerged.

We find ourselves meandering at the crossroads of the AI revolution, unwittingly slipping into a meditation akin to Schrödinger’s quandary:

AI appears poised to supplant me, yet simultaneously it appears inadequate to do so.

In the absence of a clear glimpse into the future, it behooves us to reflect on the past.

Indeed, as far back as the 19th century Industrial Revolution, our forebears grappled amidst the tide of change.

Those of yesteryear, confronted with the advent of steam engines and internal combustion engines, could scarcely envision:

This amalgamation, altering the paradigm of energy generation, paradoxically gave rise to innumerable automobiles, precipitated the construction of myriad roads, bridges, and tunnels, subsequently fostering the rapid march of urbanization, and fundamentally reshaping the urban spatial fabric.

During the nascent stages of every technological revolution, discerning the profound ramifications these technologies will ultimately impart proves to be a formidable task.

Yet, with the passage of time, they inexorably alter the manner in which we inhabit and toil, ultimately sketching a grand design for a nascent human civilization.

01 Changes in the automotive industry

Amidst the Great Depression in the United States during the 1930s, the maestro of comedy, Chaplin, penned, directed, and starred in a seminal silent masterpiece, “Modern Times,” which lampooned the estrangement of human spiritual vitality wrought by mechanized production during the Industrial Revolution.

The protagonist, Charlie, portrayed by Chaplin, dutifully repeated the mundane chore of tightening hexagonal nuts day in and day out, ultimately succumbing to a nervous breakdown, seeking solace within the confines of a mental asylum.

This vignette not only encapsulates the plight of countless assembly line workers during the Industrial Revolution but also represents a pivotal juncture of that epoch—

For the first time in human annals, large-scale industrial production was attained.

The countenance of the city underwent a metamorphosis.

The predominant mode of urban transportation transitioned from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles.

Once reliant upon horse-drawn carriages for conveyance, a leisurely and limited means of travel, the clatter of hooves and jingle of bells intertwined with the city’s cadence. Coachmanship thrived as a popular vocation, with numerous individuals tasked with tending to equine needs, affixing and maintaining horseshoes.

Subsequently, automobiles gradually supplanted horse-drawn carriages, heralding the advent of a new epoch. Commutes shortened, long-distance travel burgeoned in convenience, city confines expanded unabatedly, and the tempo of social and economic progress quickened. A plethora of new professions emerged, including automotive designers, chauffeurs, and mechanics.

It is worth noting that the advent of the steam engine and internal combustion engine laid the groundwork for the emergence of automobiles, yet this merely marked the inception.

For automobiles to truly catalyze transformative change on a global scale, the crux lies in their mass production and accessibility.

When automobiles cease to be the province of a select few and permeate the abodes of ordinary folk, they emerge as a potent force propelling societal and economic metamorphosis.

A watershed moment arrived with the introduction of the assembly line production method by Henry Ford.

In 1913, the Ford Motor Company inaugurated the inaugural assembly line at its Detroit-based factory.

This heralded a revolution in production paradigms—

The automotive manufacturing process was dissected into a succession of simplistic, repetitive tasks, with each worker tasked solely with completing a specific operation, thereby engendering standardization and automation within the production process.

Production efficacy witnessed a marked uptick, with automobile manufacture experiencing a qualitative leap.

Ford delineated the entirety of a car’s processes into 7,882 distinct types, slashing car assembly time from a protracted 12 hours to a mere 90 minutes. By 1927, the assembly line could churn out a car every 24 seconds.

Automobiles transitioned from being a luxury item to a commonplace fixture within ordinary households.

The price of the Ford Model T plummeted from $850 in 1908 to $290 in 1924. This precipitous price decline facilitated the rapid integration of automobiles into the societal fabric.

The ubiquitous presence of automobiles exerted a profound impact across all facets of the social and economic milieu.

Thanks to automobiles, intercity mobility was greatly enhanced, fostering an acceleration in urbanization;
Owing to automobiles, the demand for oil and gasoline soared, buoying the economic ascent of oil-exporting nations;
On account of automobiles, infrastructure including roads, bridges, tunnels, and highways underwent widespread proliferation on a global scale;
By virtue of automobiles, a plethora of employment opportunities emerged, precipitating a shift in labor dynamics toward nascent industries;
In the wake of the advent of automobiles, urban planning began to accommodate the exigencies of vehicular traffic, spawning ancillary facilities such as parking lots and gas stations, alongside efficient management systems encompassing traffic lights, regulations, and administrative agencies.

Reflecting upon the annals of the automotive industry revolution, it becomes patently clear:

The automotive industrial revolution necessitated “mass production” as a fulcrum to effectuate a fundamental paradigm shift within the production model.

Thus, do we stand witness to a commensurate upheaval in the era of AI?

02 Changes in the AI Industry

Though the “outputs” of AI lack tangible manifestation, the production process itself adheres to universal principles.

Production, in essence, embodies the art of transmuting raw materials into finished products.

While the automobile industry epitomizes physical creation, the AI sector constitutes a realm of virtual construction. Nevertheless, the production logic underlying both is inherently congruent:

The automobile industry invests in materials such as steel, rubber, and glass, which are metamorphosed into physical vehicles within factory precincts through the precision apparatus and assembly line protocols;

Conversely, the AI industry marshals vast troves of data as its raw materials. Leveraging cloud computing platforms, it adheres to the content standards of expansive models and algorithms to engender knowledge and information.

The advent of expansive AI models has facilitated an unprecedented scale and efficiency in content production.

Is this not akin to the advent of the assembly line production model in the automobile industry, heralding an era of efficiency revolution?

ChatGPT, endowed with unparalleled fluency, drastically reduces the barriers to human-computer interaction;

Meanwhile, Sora, exhibiting astonishing efficiency in Vincent video, not only streamlines content creation but also abbreviates the gestation period from concept to visual presentation, expediting comprehension and emulation of the real world.

Whereas the automotive industrial revolution reshaped the spatial and temporal nexus between humans and the physical realm;

Today’s AI revolution is fundamentally reshaping our interface with information.

The “prompts” in generative AI serve as analogues to furnishing AI with an initial impetus or direction, delineating how to commence generating content or executing tasks. This mirrors the “design blueprint” or “production instructions” of the bygone automotive industrial revolution era.

The so-called design blueprint comprises intricate schematics utilized by engineers to delineate and steer the automobile manufacturing process, encapsulating essential particulars such as size, structure, and component layout of the automobile. Conversely, production instructions outline the procedural steps followed by workers on the assembly line to ensure the seamless assembly of components in the correct sequence and manner.

We too shall employ prompt words to impart lucid directives for AI’s automated execution. Automation erstwhile confined to factories now pervades everyday life.

The forthcoming frontier for AI entails continual cost reduction and efficiency enhancement.

Recent media reports have divulged OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s ambition to amass up to US$7 trillion.

After all, training expansive models constitutes an art that scrutinizes financial resources—

According to an antecedent report by the Financial Times, OpenAI harnesses approximately 25,000 A100 GPUs solely to train GPT-4, while GPT-5 necessitates up to 50,000 H100s. Nvidia’s H100 commands prices as exorbitant as $25,000 to $30,000. Not only is it dear, but the H100 has also been perennially scarce, with protracted delivery times.

Predictably, these costs will ultimately cascade down to end-users.

However, akin to the assembly line production in the automobile industry, this will compel the standardization and universalization of components;

The advent of expansive AI models is poised to incite chip manufacturers to furnish more cost-effective solutions.

03 Break Through the Bottleneck of Demand

The transition from horse-drawn carriages to automobiles was catalyzed not merely by the level of industrial technology but also by the imperatives of efficient transportation amidst burgeoning population growth and urbanization.

The advent of steam engines and internal combustion engines not only signifies the denouement of conventional energy methodologies but also represents an inexorable response to the burgeoning human requisites for elemental necessities such as illumination, heating, and culinary pursuits.

Likewise, transformations in the AI industry are staunchly propelled by genuine exigencies.

At the vanguard of natural sciences, particularly data-intensive disciplines like astronomy, biology, and physics, the proliferation of experimental and observational technologies has precipitated an exponential surge in data generation. The magnitude and intricacy of this data far outstrip the capacities of traditional data handling methodologies.

Should we persist in being “hamstrung” by conventional data processing methodologies, how might humanity continue to plumb the celestial depths of the scientific realm?

In the evolution of the social economy, we stand at a pivotal juncture, confronted with the ultimate challenge of “knowledge production efficiency.”

During the 19th-century Industrial Revolution, we achieved a quantum leap in “material production methodologies”;

In the 21st-century AI revolution, we shall likewise undergo an evolution in “cultural production methodologies.”

This constitutes not solely a technological innovation but also an expansion of the frontiers of human cognition.

Perhaps AI is akin to the enigmatic “sophon” in the Trisolaran cosmos, recalibrating our comprehension of the universe at an unprecedented velocity and profundity.

At the conclusion:

The automotive industry revolution is analogous to extending humanity’s “hands and feet,” obviating the need for protracted migrations;

Conversely, the AI revolution resembles augmenting the human “cerebrum,” rendering human endeavors such as report drafting, formulating presentations, crafting PPTs, drawing, video editing, and coding mundane tasks of yore.

With each technological metamorphosis, social resources undergo realignment.

Talent and capital converge upon burgeoning domains, relegating traditional skills to obsolescence while birthing new proficiencies.

Are contemporary white-collar workers not akin to the coachmen of yesteryear?

When the monotonous toil of the white-collar echelon no longer augments societal and economic productivity, the time for metamorphosis is nigh.

Technological metamorphosis is a dividend that perennially redounds to the benefit of a broader spectrum of society, yet it disproportionately confers its spoils upon those at the vanguard.

This verity holds true for individuals as it does for nations.

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