BNC#5 – Essential Stafford Masie: is SA getting left behind? The future of ChatGPT, BTC, and AGI

Stafford Masie, technology entrepreneur, former Google Africa Chief and advocate for emerging technologies, discusses the rapid growth of ChatGPT and its potential to transform businesses and society, stressing the implications of AI and the necessity for businesses to be focused on these areas for future planning. Masie also shares his concern for South Africa’s lack of focus on artificial intelligence compared to other countries, which could lead to irrelevance in the tech industry. Finally advocating for Bitcoin as an undervalued asset class, which he believes will predictably grow over the next 20-30 years, comparing it to gold.

Some extracts from Stafford’s presentation:

ChatGPT might be the most incredible tech to emerge in the last decade. These are big technologies, ChatGPT is replacing junior developers. We went into this upshoot of how ChatGPT was going to change everything and disintermediate everyone and take over businesses, that normally happens with technology and then it kind of subsides, right? 

So now we see it. If you take a look at its definition, it is very simple. It looks a lot like Google. It’s very simple. Look at its adoption, it took five days for ChatGPT to get to 1 million users. We’ve never seen a consumer application in the history of technology be adopted at this pace before, ever. At the moment I think it’s sitting between 100 and 150 million users per day – engaging with it. My kids use it. We’re using it in our businesses. People are engaging with it.

If you’re not considering ChatGPT in your business, if you don’t have a team inside of your business looking at this, I want to shake you and say, get a team, in your board of directors you should have someone with the competency that I have on your board, because in the boards that I serve right now, I am very much the focal point for a large portion of the board meetings. 

We get to go past the governance, the risks, the remuneration, all that other stuff, and then we start talking very, very seriously about what are the implications. And it’s not just for the business, it’s what it’s doing for the consumer. On the outside of your business, This is transforming the base. It’s engaging with your services. Human machine symbiosis is happening on the outside of your business and these people are engaging with you. The expectations are going to change dramatically. You need to be aware of what’s happening on the outside. So it’s incredible. 

If you are to ask me where this is going, I think in the next 5 to 10 years, and you quote me in the next 5 to 10 years, I think we will see our first instance of an AGI. What is an AGI? A general intelligence that’s artificial, an artificial general intelligence. That will be an instance that will have more intelligence than any single human being on the planet. And it will almost be, to a certain extent, omniscient. And that’s going to change everything, the way society is structured, the way we deal with medicine, rules, regulations, cultures, as much as it’s going to give us as much as it’s going to hold up a mirror to show us our really, really bad side too. So in terms of misinformation, in terms of disinformation, in terms of turmoil, you know, aggregation of extremities, I’m very, very concerned about it. So our leaders have to wake up to this and this is coming. 

So AGI, in my opinion, in the next 5 to 10 years, I believe we will have an AGI. And AGI is going to be extraordinarily impactful. It will be the biggest thing. It will be like when we discovered the wheel. It will be like when we discovered fire and AGI will transform society, it will transform everything. It could essentially make us an intergalactic species because we’ve never had anything that could think like that. It will be godlike. 

Read more: ChatGPT and business: use it first – gain advantage?

On why he feels South Africa is still years away from harnessing AI technology

I’m very concerned about South Africa – not from an understanding of economics as an economist would look at it. I look at it as a technologist, because when I look at these emerging technologies, what I see happening in South Africa is a narrative that is so different from the narrative that’s happening anywhere else in the world. In fact, the Northern Hemisphere narrative is all about AI. 

Then when I come back to South Africa I listen on the radio and listen to politicians bickering about load shedding and we just fall behind. I’m very, very concerned about South Africa because we are so worried about just keeping water and lights going where the rest of the world is looking at artificial intelligence in a way that we can’t even comprehend right now. And that’s very, very concerning. So our leaders are just not understanding the impact of things. And these things could disintermediate our country. These things could have an impact on us. I think South Africa’s challenge is not going to be exploitation. I think South Africa’s challenge will be irrelevance. And that’s a very, very scary thing. Now, yes, we have commodities, etc., but from a workforce, a labour perspective, a human capital perspective, I’m very concerned about us. 

Read more: 3 stocks in the era of ChatGPT

On his advocation for Bitcoin as an asset

I think Bitcoin is the most undervalued asset class in our world. I think it’s the only place where you can put your money right now for the next 20 to 30 years and predictably know that it will grow. It will grow if you are patient. No one’s ever lost money putting it into bitcoin for four years or more. It is the only different deflationary asset that we have in the entire world. Every time a block is mined and it issues out, it issues on its portion of the 21 million of a fixed supply and every four years that’s halved. We have a halving happening next year. What does that mean? 

Right now Bitcoin has a leak of 1.8%. It matches gold. Gold is between 1.8 and 2% per year. We have more gold in the world. Bitcoin right now is sitting at 1.8. Next year it goes down to half that. There you go. And then another four years after. It’s deflationary and it’s mathematical. And there is no government, no authoritarian regime. And it’s immutable. And you can carry a Bitcoin in your brain.

It’s not based upon a feeling. It’s not based upon Magnus Heystek saying something, it’s not based upon Helen Zille and the DA doing something. Bitcoin doesn’t care for any of those human beings, doesn’t care for any of you in the room. It keeps doing what it does. It’s immutable, it’s sensor resistant, and you can go anywhere with it and no one can take it away from you unless they put a gun to your head and demanded it from you.  

Read more: Stafford Masie on the Crypto Chaos: Here’s how to protect your Bitcoin