This week I’m at Microsoft Ignite. There was a video at the end of the second keynote that spoke to how Copilot could be used by folks who were severely disabled to help make them productive. The video featured a guy in Ukraine where the massive number of civilians who have been critically injured need technologies to help their now heavily injured and disabled population return to work.
This made me think about how this technology could change education and result in kids who enjoyed school more and could develop skills that would put them in high demand when they graduate regardless of the industry they go into.
This technology is a massive game changer, and the operational sessions were standing-room-only as developers and service providers race to understand and learn to deploy it effectively.
Helping the Severely Disabled
If you watch the video I linked to above, you’ll see a guy who would have been severely limited in his ability to earn a living as a developer. He clearly knew the technology and had the mental acuity to do an excellent job, but he was so physically compromised that his normal typing speed was reduced to a few letters a minute. Even a short utility program that might take someone minutes to create would likely take him hours or even days. He was also speech impaired, so simple voice-to-text technology wouldn’t work, either.
Copilot is a Large Language Model (LLM) that is now being applied across Microsoft’s product set, ranging from productivity and communications tools to coding tools. It is an increasingly advanced AI that can determine intent and then execute against that intent automatically.
As a result, it was able to not only mitigate the disabled developer’s disability but provide capabilities that a developer without a disability not using Copilot wouldn’t normally have in terms of immediate error checking and code optimization.
In fact, as this technology advances, it may allow extremely disabled people whose minds are still intact to outperform any other developers who don’t have access to this technology.
This is huge because most of us don’t want to be a burden on our families. If you were born with a disability or were disabled in a war zone, you’d tend to question whether you should even be alive. Your existence, which was already painful, would lack meaning and, depending on your caregiver, would be incredibly lonely.
With this technology, the disabled can not only work effectively and mitigate their inability to work but be able to better communicate and collaborate with others and gain what we all often take for granted: a purpose in life, not to mention that society gets another productive member rather than a lifelong dependent. The disabled person is better off, their families are better off and society is better off as a result.
Given Copilot is being applied to every industry, its impact on the victims in Ukraine would be huge, not only helping them have meaningful lives but helping the country post-war by shifting dependents that were created into productive members who can help rebuild the country and its economy. In fact, once that war is over, I expect Ukraine will be one of the leading technological countries with expertise in disaster recovery and low-cost autonomous weapons. Like Japan after World War II, Ukraine could become far more capable than it was before the war.
As I watched the video, it occurred to me that kids are often far more creative and imaginative than adults are, but they lack the skills needed to create the art, fill out the stories, and communicate the concepts that their less restricted minds might otherwise create. A child raised with a tool like Copilot will be capable of creating things that an adult might never think of because, as we age, our imaginations become more restricted and our fear of failure more pronounced.
Think of kids creating programming for other kids, creating art that isn’t yet corrupted by the environment and coming up with ideas and concepts that people believe are impossible but aren’t. And as they advance with AI, once they become adults, they’ll have a depth of understanding regarding how to use AI that should eclipse what anyone from a prior, non-AI enabled generation might be able to do.
It would be the difference between someone that started dancing or playing an instrument at an early age and someone that learned later in life, but their instrument will be AI. They’ll lack the fear of using something new because, to them, it has always existed. What they create as kids and adults will challenge our current limitations and make it far less likely they’ll boomerang back home once they become adults.
Can you imagine what an AI Savant would be worth in an AI-driven world? And using AI is a lot of fun. It engages the mind and sets the child up for a far more successful and lucrative future.
When I came to Microsoft Ignite, I knew Copilot was going to be a game changer. But seeing that developer in Ukraine made me realize it would be far more than that for the severely disabled who are unable to work or even communicate. Applied broadly, this could be a huge benefit to our disabled soldiers, those born with severe defects, or those who have been injured in accidents and might be looking at a depressing and unproductive future. And we are still at the beginning of this AI wave. Imagine what the world will be like in 5 to 10 years when this technology begins to approach its full potential. The world is going to be very different with the firms and countries that have embraced this technology rapidly outpacing those that do not.
AI will make us better, faster and much more productive, and make a massive difference in quality of life. That alone would change the world for the better, raising voices and imaginations that are currently unheard to true powers for positive change.