GenAI’s Impact will surpass every other technology - Ascendion

GenAI’s Impact will surpass every other technology

Buckle up for the great disruptor!

Ascendion December 11, 2023


HFS Research

Buckle up! Generative AI (GenAI) is set to be one of the greatest disruptors to impact business and society in our lifetimes (and our parents’, grandparents’, and great-grandparents’ lifetimes).

That’s what our expert users believe right now, looking out to 2025. A third of them say GenAI will have a greater impact than the steam engine, the internet, the iPhone, and even the printing press. In fact, our study of “people who know” suggests that GenAI will likely have a more disruptive impact than the internet or any other innovation we asked them to consider (see Exhibit 1).

It’s perhaps easy to take such a giddy expectation with a large pinch of salt. There’s ample evidence that humans are not great at predicting the long-term future of any specific technical innovation. Just consider the froth around the metaverse, blockchain, or even the Zune. Loads (even most) new technologies suffer from a failure to launch widespread change.


So, what’s different this time?

We see three big differences that help explain what our respondents told us: mature enabling technologies, democratized innovation at scale, and the economics of improving knowledge work.

  • We started this journey in 1956
    For most of us, it feels like generative AI sprouted overnight, but the fact is that this shift started decades ago. The first instances of artificial intelligence emerged in the late 1950s. What is happening now is the concurrent maturation of a confluence of enabling technologies such as processing power (thanks, Nvidia!), ubiquitous connectivity, and the internet as a shared platform (thanks, Sir Tim Berners-Lee)



  • We democratized innovation
    Thomas Edison had about a dozen people at any time working in his Menlo Park laboratories (which gave us the light bulb, the phonograph, and more than 1,000 patents). Now imagine if he had a billion people working there. This sounds ridiculous, but that’s exactly what is happening with generative AI. Companies like Microsoft, OpenAI, Google, Anthropic, and other GenAI “foundries” have basically outsourced innovation to all of us. Some researchers estimate that at least 70% of companies are experimenting with GenAI. Right now, countless people worldwide are figuring out what these bots can do, even while inventing thousands of new systems that take advantage of the underlying technologies.
    We’ll look back on this period of history as perhaps one of the greatest waves of innovation in human history (and certainly the fastest). It took more than 60 years for 80% of US households to get a telephone. It took cell phones 15 years, It’s too early to say how fast GenAI adoption will go, but the adoption curve is already steeper than smartphones and tablets.
  • Knowledge workers will absorb the impact
    Finally, perhaps the biggest difference between GenAIand other more recent technology leaps is that the economic impact won’t be on our physical economy, such as providing electricity and transportation, but on every experience shaped by software. This impact will land squarely on knowledge workers. That’s us, and if you’re reading this, that’s probably you.GenAI is the next technology to profoundly impact how knowledge work gets done. This doesn’t mean wholesale employment carnage unless that job truly does not rely on capabilities still within the sole provenance of humans.

‘Twasever thus.


“Technology has always given, and technology has always taken away. Automation and technological substitution of human labor are facts of life. More important, these dynamics are a good thing. More tools mean more leverage, which means more efficiency, which means more productivity. This results in more margin, which means the ability and opportunity to do higher-value work and to use higher-order skills (i.e., to grow). This is the route to protecting jobs, not destroying them.
– Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig, and Benjamin Pring, authors of “What to Do When Machines Do Everything”

CFOs and investors love productivity. The economics of bots enhancing human work will be the grease that lubricates disruptive innovation and deployment and makes GenAIat least as impactful as the steam engine. Gen AI will alter every job, enhancing every knowledge worker.

“In every job, in every task we perform with it, something aiding us, making us faster, more productive, more mindful, is a future that I’m looking forward to. That means elevation of work, elevation of everything that I do, really elevating our focus on the business of our business. -Sandeep Dadlani, EVP, Chief Digital and Technology Officer, UnitedHealth Group”

This vision gets tactical quickly. The transformation happens at ground level, where real work is done.

Sheri Sullivan is a Partner and Global Payroll Operate Leader at EY. She is not a computer scientist or techie, but she is on the hunt for better ways to do payroll across 156 countries. It’s a massively complex, data-intensive operation that has to work predictably and within compliance every week, perpetually, or else the whole business grinds to a halt.

Sheri has worked across a massive organization, including the legal, audit, finance, and technology departments, to do the work better. It’s working already. Sheri and her team and partners have already deployed ChatGPT to bring customer experience levels of satisfaction to employee payroll experiences, reducing average issue resolution time from 2.1 days to 23.5 seconds! Customer and employee satisfaction scores have rocketed to 95%.

“I really feel like GenAIis going to be a key determinant in how successful you are, what kind of company you have in the future versus going the way of the dinosaur when somebody else comes in out of left field and takes over. – Sheri Sullivan, Partner and Global Payroll Operate Leader at EY”


The Bottom Line: GenAI isn’t hyped enough…

We know you’ve heard it all before-metaverse, blockchain, Web3, quantum computing-they’ll all rip the rug from under you unless you act fast.

If anything, according to our findings, the bigger likelihood is that the hype around GenAI is not high enough! Our data on GenAI disruption includes observations from those best qualified to help us plan for the future, as they have practical experience applying it to real business problems. Those with GenAI experience are dreaming big and accelerating.

If you think this is a mirage, that the GenAI hype will blow over like yesterday’s Apple Newton or MySpace, please-please-think again. Do yourself a favor and take this disruption seriously.


About this research

Your Generative Enterprise™ playbook for the future is a HFS Research and Ascendion research program based on more than 20 in-depth interviews and a survey of more than 100 C-suite leaders and practitioners with first-hand experience implementing GenAI in organizations.

Watch out for more, and join us on the journey at Ascendion and HFS Research to access all our research findings.

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