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What Technology Business Leaders Can Learn from CES

To the uninitiated, Las Vegas’ annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) sounds like a trade convention...

To the uninitiated, Las Vegas’ annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) sounds like a trade convention for the latest big screen TVs or Bluetooth speakers. But as dedicated future-watchers know, CES is the world’s most high-profile technology and innovation showcase.

It’s a frenzy of hoodies and suits – over 115,000 of them at this year’s event – exploring 4,000-plus exhibitors and hundreds of speakers, all there to share new ideas and eye-opening technologies.

As recruiters in technology, that’s why we go. To discover what’s next and consider the impact for executive leaders, both in terms of the tech they need to know about in their industries, and the new skills they may need to learn.

Is ChatGPT really the future?

Interestingly, at this year’s event on January 5th, it was a product that wasn’t even at the show that had everyone talking. ChatGPT is the sophisticated artificial intelligence system made by Microsoft-backed OpenAI that responds to complex queries with the appearance of remarkable intelligence and accuracy. If you have any interest in technology, you’ve likely already heard of it.

ChatGPT sailed over the one million users mark in just five days, making it officially the fastest-growing technology in history. Several speakers at CES had even used it to create content for their talks.

Word on the street is that ChatGPT has the potential to make Google search obsolete. If true, this would be the biggest change to online search for decades and mark a seismic shift in many companies’ business models. 

Will ChatGPT bring down Google? Or will Google respond with a new technology of its own? The truth is, we just don’t know. Many much-heralded new technologies have ended up failing over the years, while new innovations often pass beneath the radar before coming to dominate our lives. After all, who could have anticipated the extent to which Google would come to define online search when it first launched?

New technologies are more often helpful than harmful

In the executive search world, we’ve faced similar debates in recent years. When LinkedIn became popular, there were many who predicted the death of the recruiter and the end of search firms. Did that happen? Evidently not. Those of us who do well in this business tend to be those who stay abreast of the latest technology so we can use it to enhance what we do.

Since ChatGPT was getting so much buzz at CES, I wondered if that was because Google is etched into all our lives. Google isn’t specific to an industry or a function. It’s ubiquitous. To google is a verb in our global lexicon. It’s how we find things out these days. How will it affect us for a disruptor to come along and take that away from us?

Certainly, ChatGPT is one innovation for us all to keep an eye on in the months ahead to see if it really does live up to its promise of disruption.

How impactful will these innovations really be?  

Outside of the ChatGPT bubble, the conference was fascinating. Some of the innovation on display was fanciful, but some of it was so practical I was slightly shocked that it didn’t already exist. What was most interesting however, was a theme that we have seen for many years – at the heart of it all was data.

Consider the at-home urine lab from healthtech company Withings. It’s a gadget you can put in your toilet bowl which will continuously analyze your pee. By doing what we do every day, we can now monitor and measure a wide variety of health conditions and allow more options for proactive preventative care.

Or on a bigger scale, we all know climate change is a massive global challenge. But did you know that over 21% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture?

To help solve this challenge, John Deere announced ExactShot, a robotics-based fertilizer system that uses sensors and robotics to reduce fertilizer use by over 60% on average. The company also launched a new electric excavator for the construction industry that produces zero emissions without sacrificing power.

It was also interesting to see where gaming featured at the conference. Not only was it highlighted in a discussion of connected content; it also popped up unexpectedly in the automotive space.

Cariad, VW’s automotive software team’s exhibit, showcased a theory that as the demographic of car users (note I didn’t say owners) shifts from millennials to GenZ and GenAlpha, the cars of the future can become a gaming cockpit. In this scenario, the car windscreen becomes a full heads-up display so that (when parked) the driver and passengers can enjoy a fully interactive gaming experience.

What can tech business leaders learn from all this?

My takeaway?

Data remains at the core of innovation. Without knowing what’s causing climate change, we cannot innovate to fix it. Without being able to monitor health, we can’t diagnose our illnesses. Without understanding what future car users’ priorities are, the automotive industry can’t work out how to stay relevant and profitable.

We need to keep an open mind and stay abreast of new ideas and innovation, recognizing that today’s groundbreaking innovation is paving the way for next iteration to become our new normal. If we stay ahead of this, we can anticipate what new skills we might need to develop to keep our businesses thriving and our careers vibrant and rewarding.

I was going to ask ChatGPT what it thought, but it was at capacity. Perhaps that’s one I can ask Google instead.