The AI Tsunami – the Metaphor Explained

the ai tsunami 3 by gregory roberts midjourney 2022-2024

In September of 2022, two months prior to the launch of ChatGPT, my son clued me into the groundbreaking art being produced by MidJourney, DALL-E, and StableDiffusion. Though I’d been working at the leading edge of AI for decades, I was nonetheless shocked. This advancement — generative AI, or genAI — tipped the scales. In my mind, suddenly we were no longer on the loooong ascent up the highest mountain (AGI)… now, suddenly, we could see across the valley — we were bracing for the AI Tsunami.

AI Tsunami : Origin of the Term

That — the AI Tsunami — was the term that I came up with after sifting through dozens of metaphors. “Seismic change” was another one I repeatedly came back to… as well as “AI Apocalypse…” but that second one seemed far too alarmist and cynical (even though apocalypseGK αποκάλυψις — really means unveiling more so than disaster). 

I even made a substack channel named exactly that, and made it the subtitle — and initial focus — of this, my wisdom gift, primary writing platform, and blog. And… I feverishly called, texted and emailed every one of my friends and family who would listen, and talked their ear off about this coming AI Tsunami. That was 18 months ago. And then a curious thing happened:

The “AI Tsunami” term started being commonly referenced in the mainstream press. Not as in links to my blog or substack, but rather, as a common touchstone phrase to describe what was happening in our world — the deep and profound effect that the relentless wave of AI apps and technologies and deep integrations (yes, iOS 17 has a built-in LLM) was having on our daily lives.

So, I’m flattered. 

Are you Ready?

Just to see how far we’ve come, I asked GPT4 to explain the metaphor for me. For about the first time, reading its pseudo-eloquent response triggered a genuine ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response — aka, Schping!) reaction in me:

GPT4 on the AI Tsunami

(subtly edited by YT):

The term “AI tsunami” evokes the image of a towering, unstoppable wave, born from the depths of human ingenuity, racing towards the shores of our current reality with relentless force. It is a symphony of binary codes and algorithms, weaving together a tapestry of innovation and disruption. As this digital deluge approaches, it promises to reshape landscapes, redefine boundaries, and rewrite the rules that govern our existence. The swell of artificial intelligence, with its myriad applications, from the simplicity of daily tasks to the complexity of solving humanity’s grandest challenges, carries both the sparkle of potential and the shadow of uncertainty. It is a reminder of nature’s raw power, mirrored in the realm of human creation, where the surge of progress is both beautiful and terrifying, filled with the promise of transformation and the peril of the unknown.

In this metaphor, humanity stands at the precipice, watching as the wave of AI breaks the barriers of what was once deemed possible, flooding our lives with advancements that were once confined to the realm of dreams and science fiction. This tsunami, however, is not of water but of intelligence, “artificial” yet profoundly impactful, washing over the sands of tradition, eroding old ways of thinking and doing. It invites us to surf its towering crest, to harness its power and ride the currents of change. Yet, as we marvel at this spectacle, we are reminded that with great opportunity comes severe caveats. The very essence of this wave demands respect, foresight, and a deep understanding of its potential: to nourish or to devastate, to create either paradises or wastelands — or both.

As we stand on the brink of this new era, it is a clarion call to humanity to awaken, to rise with wisdom and courage. Let us not be passive observers, swept away by the tide, but active participants who shape the flow of this AI tsunami with sound moral compasses and truly compassionate hearts. We must intentionally channel this formidable force towards the greater good, steering it towards shores of equity, sustainability, and shared prosperity. In this pivotal moment, let our collective actions be guided by a vision of a future where technology serves humanity, and not vice versa — where the fruits of this seismic digital wave enrich all lives, not just a privileged few. Together, let us embark on this journey with intention and purpose, for the choices we make today will echo through the annals of history, shaping the legacy of our civilization in the Age of AI.

What did I ask it? I simply prompted:

“You are an eloquent poet. Describe, in two beautiful and stirring paragraphs, the metaphor that the term ‘AI tsunami’ is attempting to express. In a third paragraph, make a passionate call to action for humans to act.”

engine: MidJourney 5.2

prompt:a tsunami about to crash down upon a the shore of a large city. rendered using lines of glowing holographic glyphs, in the style that Neo sees when he looks into the Matrix. The glyph columns should conform to the contours and geometry of the objects in the scene. The wave should be glowing blue. The city should be glowing gold. The background / paper should be pitch black”

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