Utopias, Dystopias and Today's Technology

Shaping Work's Future: AI, Gig Economy, & Tech-Driven Transformation

May 24, 2023 Johannes Castner
Utopias, Dystopias and Today's Technology
Shaping Work's Future: AI, Gig Economy, & Tech-Driven Transformation
Show Notes Transcript

Ben Legg, co-founder of the Portfolio Collective and host Johannes discuss the evolving job market and gig economy. They touch upon the role of emerging technologies, such as AI and Blockchain, that are contributing to the reshaping of our professional world.

Through their exchange, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) and the peer-to-peer economy emerge as new models, offering innovative perspectives on work and employment. Fractional work is given particular attention, an intriguing alternative to traditional full-time employment.

Their dialogue explores the challenges and concerns associated with these changes, such as the ethical implications of AI, the need for adaptive education systems, and enhancement in an ever-more productive environment.

Ben Legg sheds light on the global nature of entrepreneurship, revealing how geographic and time constrain growth into new markets when running workshops, as the Portfolio Collective does. He offers a glimpse into the vibrant community within his organization, characterized by its remarkable diversity.

Engage with this dialogue, share your thoughts, and contribute to the conversation. Subscribe to our channel for more content exploring the intersection of work, technology, and society.


Johannes Castner:

Hello and welcome. My name is Johannes and I'm the host of this show. Today I am here with Ben Legg and we will be talking about the future of work, the technologies involved, as well as how you can get ready for this new future that will be a reality soon. Ben Legg is a seasoned technology, c e o. Engineer, author and former C o O of Google Europe now focused on helping thousands of entrepreneurs flourish through hands-on mentoring, team building, consulting, investing, fundraising, board roles, and career coaching. He has lived in nine countries and worked in 60 of them and reinvented multiple industries, and this is not hyperbole to say that. Hi Ben. Great to have you on the show. Uh, welcome. Good to be here. Yeah, you've been very inspirational for my own career. There would be no such thing as this podcast if it wasn't for your influence and the, so, welcome and let just go right into questions because I know your time is limited, so let me just jump, right? Mm-hmm. In here. What is your. Utopian vision, so to speak, of, um, where, where will be the future of work and what is the place of the portfolio, um, collective in this. Yeah. How do you see that? And also what technologies will be involved.

Ben Legg:

Yeah, that's a, a lot of questions packed into one. So I'll start with other people's forecasts before I add my own vision, which is there are now countless forecasts that say by, let's say 2030, you know, five, 10 years from now, something like, only half the world will have a traditional full-time job. And the other half will be part of the gig economy. Now, some people might worry about that, I don't worry about that. But what it does take is people need to be much more thoughtful about how they make it work for them as opposed to, let's say, being being a pawn. So, and let's start with why is that shift happening? If we start from a company side, the world is changing so fast, you can't predict what people you will need. You know, at scale for the foreseeable future, because if you really think about it, it's expensive and time consuming to hire a full-time employee. So you need to be very confident. You need that person's skills, you know, 365 days a year or whatever it is, 230 working days per year. For the foreseeable future that they will represent good value for money for the foreseeable future, which means you are confident their job won't be reduced by ai, won't be outsourced, won't be canceled because some priorities changed. Now, how many roles can you really say that about in the future? Yeah, priorities keep changing and will change faster and faster. Technology will keep making elements of work obsolete. You know, they'll all, there'll be more and more clever ways to outsource, and so realistically you will have a lower, uh, fixed headcount, which is also lower fixed cost, which gives much more flexibility. But then there's still work that needs to get done. There's new projects, there's, um, ideas you need to scale up. There's things that go so well. You need to scale fast, and the way those will get done is by working with fractional talent. Um, at every level of, of, of, you know, of, of the food chain as it were, you'll have, you know, the advisors, the consultants, whatever, to help you design that work. There'll be project managers and leaders and middle managers to help you do that work. You know, they'll be doers, you know, frontline workers to actually, you know, design the logos, make the videos, um, drive the trucks, whatever it might be, depending on what the work is. And so in that world in which. 50% of people do not have a day job. They basically have a portfolio curve of some sort. They need to really think differently about work. It's not who will employ me. How much will they pay me? It's how will I have really relevant skills that the world needs that pay well that make me happy. How will I build my brand and, and be be visible to the people that need me? Um, how will I continuously learn so I'm never obsolete? How will I manage my portfolio of work to. Pay the bills, keep me learning, and also juggle family and friends and other stuff. So it's like half the world needs to be an entrepreneur. Now if you go at 20 years ago, probably 0.1% of the world were entrepreneurs. Um, yeah, maybe now 1% of the world were entrepreneurs. Maybe, maybe three. At some stage in the future, 50% of the world need to be entrepreneurs. Um, that's a massive shift in education, working style, attitudes, levels of intellect, uh, you know, emotional intelligence. Uh, people's ability to build brands, sell themselves, um, do work. Also, the ability, cuz it is not just about individuals, a lot of those portfolio professionals will actually work in teams, but the teams come together just for one project. So you come together for a project, you do the project, you get paid, you disperse the team. That will be a bigger and bigger part of the future as well. Now if you believe in that vision, which I do, you then need to say, well, how can you either help it or survive it? And we're obviously mostly trying to help it. You know, we've formed the portfolio collective to help professionals, um, how successful portfolio career is. So people who may be a bit a bit corporate for most of their career and then say, I want to go independent. And how we try to help people do that is with training. Training, how, how to be a successful portfolio professional and not just once, not just when you start, but top up training forever. We also help with, with community and collaboration. Um, first of all, being a portfolio professional, being part of the economy can be lonely. You're not part of a corporation that feels like a family or a team. We are building a family and a team within the portfolio collection so you can learn from each other, collaborate with each other at form teams, et cetera. Uh, and then finally, also we're trying to. Build a brand for our talent, help our talent, you know, stand out from the crowd because they've met a higher bar or whatever it might be, so that when people are looking for fractional professionals, they'll come to the portfolio effective because they know that they're going to get someone good. Uh, so that's what we are trying to do. Yeah, we're up to around 9,000 members at the moment. Um, you know, but we're growing like crazy. So, um, kind of having fun there in terms of technology, um, there's a lot of things that. We could do the, the one that I think is always in the back of my mind is linked to web three, and there's a, there's concept of a DAO, a decentralized, autonomous organization in which, um, you have a bunch of people who come together to work and build things, et cetera, and in which value exchanges are fair. And the more you put in, the more you get out, et cetera. Now, obviously, there's a lot of ways to build it out, and I'm not an expert on DAOs. The way I interpret it for the portfolio collective is, Right now already we have a community who are very good at helping each other. Um, And also we have over 200 of our community have invested in the portfolio sector as well. Um, so we are literally built for the community, owned by the community, which is awesome. It makes me feel like a digital hippie kind of thing. Um, it's like a Kibbutz or something. Um, but it's great, you know, people really are helping each other and the more we succeed as a group, you know, the more the share price goes up, et cetera. One day, I think my interpretation of a DAO is, or DAO for us, Is we would turn all shares into tokens. So let's say you say every, every share's worth one token or a thousand tokens doesn't really matter. Um, so that shareholders become token owners. But then we would say the more you give to the community, the more you get in tokens. So I, I'll also give us, no, let's say someone helps us design a new course and we would've paid them 20,000 pounds in cash. We'd say we've paid 20,000 pounds in tokens. Now if they need the cash, they can cash it in. If they don't, they let it ride. They've just become a shareholder in the portfolio collective. Uh, if that course does well or if the community does well, the effect of the amount they got paid will go up. Because the token value went up. Um, you, you might also add other things. Like for everyone that attends the course, you get an extra whatever, thousand, um, you know, tokens per attendee or whatever. You know, we need the mechanics, but in essence, that encourages everyone. To give to the community for the greater good, cuz they actually have a financial incentive as well. If someone writes an article right now, we'll pay them whatever, two or 300 pounds, could we pay 'em two or 300 tokens? And if they don't need the cash, they let it ride. Uh, their contribution to our thought leadership goes up in value. And so I, I, I definitely see this kind of way in which somehow everyone gets paid fairly for their contribution to the community. And if they don't need the money, they let it ride. And if they let it ride, you end up with this, everyone having a bigger and bigger stake, uh, which then one day could pay for their retirement. You know, arguably they could say, right, I'll leave whatever, 20, 30% of whatever I earn through the community, um, you know, in tokens. And one day I will cash it in, but by then it's much more valuable or something like that. There's lot to be worked out there. I dunno what the answer is, but I think within two or three years, that's the direction we'll go.

Johannes Castner:

It brings me actually to a related question because some critics of portfolio careers or this approach or. People who see it as dystop dystopian as to the changes that are coming that you're explaining. They would say that there's a lack of stability and benefits. You know, right now we're getting all these benefits for working. If we're working at a corporation, you get, stocks, I suppose that's, that's a benefit that you sort of, I guess that could be similar to these tokens that you just described. But they also get 401 Ks in America, I dunno, here England, it's called a pension, I suppose so what do you say to that? Is this not a concern.

Ben Legg:

So, um, I think that is, A very old fashioned view, uh, in my mind. So I totally get, if people don't plan their finances, they'll be in trouble if they go down the port route and literally blow all their cash every month on lifestyle. But this is where it comes back to everyone needs to be an entrepreneur. What does an entrepreneur do? They typically pay themselves a relatively low salary, and they make a lot of money over time through stock. So people need to, you know, plan their finances around what do I need for living versus what do I need for wealth creation? Uh, in terms of the other benefits, I do get that they go away when you are independent, but you should earn more and therefore be able to pay for it anyway. So for example, what our members tend to do, or certainly the, the more successful ones themselves, typically the amount you can earn per day or per hour as an independent professional is about twice what you can earn as a salaried employee,

um, for very good reasons, which is:

every HR director knows, or every ceo, whatever, the people's true employees, true cost to a company is typically something like twice their salary. There's the cost of hiring them, the cost of recruiting them, the cost of paid time off, the cost of maternity leave, cost of sick leave, the cost of the computers, the canteen, the office space, blah, goes on and and on. Typically, it doubles the price, doubles the salary. And therefore when you just rock up as an independent professional with your own computer, you've done your own training and paid for it yourself. Um, you don't need an office cuz you're working remotely or, or hot desking, whatever it might be. It's fair to charge twice the amount per day or per hour that you would earn in a job. So if you are gonna earn, let's say, uh, a hundred thousand a year, you, you know, at a day rate basis, you have 200,000 a year, let's say. Now with that, on top of that, as a portfolio professional, you typically pay less tax because you can offset quite a lot of stuff that goes in your life, you know, against, um, earnings. Um, but so ultimately if you're earning more and paying less tax, You have spare cash. And then the question is, what do you do with that? And obviously some of the sensible things are have a pension pay for private healthcare if you need that. Um, you know, pay for the other, pay for your computer, pay for your training, pay for some of those things that companies will give you anyway. And that's where it does come back to. You've gotta think of yourself as a business, not as an employee. Yeah,

Johannes Castner:

that's a great answer. I like that. So then, uh, let's say, um, The, the question of, of technology, right. That comes up, uh, you know, as to how we, we, we answered this a little bit in terms of, um, you know, how you see, see this working, for example, for the portfolio. Mm-hmm. Um, collective as a whole. Yeah. But, uh, for the individual, so, so for each member of the co portfolio collective or any, any self mm-hmm. Entrepreneur as you call it. Yeah. Um, how, how should they prepare for the technological changes that are. Coming, which are, which include generally ai, uh, writing, you know, the quantity of writing that can be produced. Even the quality though, you know, how, how do you, how do you feel about that? Have you thought about this quite a bit or? Yeah,

Ben Legg:

so the, the, the, the, the simple answer has become a cyborg. Um, yeah, just we we're all humans, you know, um, amplified or made more productive by technology and just the simple fact of having a smartphone, quite frankly makes you much more capable than you are without a smartphone. Um, but, but beyond that, that's some slightly simplistic answer is stay at the cutting edge. It's actually very easy as a portfolio professional stay at the cutting edge because you're not waiting for the IT department to give you some technology that's, You know, out date cuz it came from both some big sort of old-fashioned tech company, um, that begins with them. You know, you basically, you, you can sort of try all the cool new stuff that's coming along. You know, my, you can't see it right now, but I'm looking at my, my Chrome thing and the amount of Chrome plugins I've got that just make me more productive is insane. You know, the same on my phone. Is this, like, we're, we're, you know, there's always ways to say, right, okay. How can I. Respond to emails more efficiently using some kind of generative AI hack or, or, or bot or whatever. How can I manage my LinkedIn better? How can I make proposals more quickly? How can I draft articles more efficiently? Uh, you know, depending on what you do as a portfolio professional, in most cases. You can probably get between 20 and 50% of your work done for you with the right productivity acts already. And you know, let's face it, the generative AI revolution is only a few months old, arguably in terms of the public conscience. So, um, and, and what happens is if you are ahead of the curve, You can earn more per hour because quite frankly, you can, you know, bill for 10 hours of work and do it in whatever, five or six or seven because you've made yourself more productive. Over time, the market catches up, everyone becomes more productive. You need to be finding the next hack. So just like. You know, companies have to remain competitive by being more productive, providing better service at a lower cost, et cetera. You know, again, come back to the portfolio Professional as a company you need to be constantly becoming more productive, which either means more knowledge, more tools, more productivity, ultimately delivering more value at a lower cost, you know, and keeping that equation in

Johannes Castner:

sync. Yeah. So the value, so how do you Correct. How do you ensure the quality of this? Because clearly you can produce a lot of stuff. But, uh, you don't want to be known as someone who produces a lot of crap to, to be frank.

Ben Legg:

No, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Let's face it, you know, me too articles, um, you know, don't get read. Um, you know, so, you know, I, I think, and you might tell me I'm wrong, I think real originality, real cut through content work, et cetera, will almost always require a human element. Cuz quite frankly, if it doesn't, then it means everyone can do it. So, to me, What the ai, you know, revolution should give us is the ability to get to a 70 or 80% complete job very, very fast. But you still, so first of all, you still need to add, tweak, polish, give something a personal look. The other thing is, what do you put into the machine to get the answer out? So it takes a good. Brain, a smart human to ask the right question or give the right task to the generative of ai, and then it takes a good brain or a good human to check the quality and polish it, et cetera afterwards. So, um, if you just think about it, you know, what are some of the best articles any of us have ever read? They're offering, answering a question that was somehow deep in our subconscious that we'd never thought about ourselves. But someone else thought about that question and they went and did some search. And, and when you see the title, it's like, That's a really good question or that's, I want to read it. Thinking of that is probably something that would be quite hard for general AI to do. Answering it in a basic way, it's probably something very easy for general I to do, but answering it in a unique, insightful way where people are, aha, I haven't heard that before. I haven't thought it before. I think is gonna be hard. So I think in many ways it raises all of us outta the directory. To, to, to be much more directors of work rather than doers of work. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Um, so yeah, it really is. So what I, what do I want to do? What question do I want to answer? What product do I want to build? What you know, et cetera. That is a human element, I think. Then it's, what technology do I want to use, cuz it's probably gonna be a lot of choice. You know, which tools, which AI tools will I use? That's important. And then once you've got the output, What do I do with it? How much do I tweak it, polish it, how do I distribute it? What do I sell it for? Who do I sell it to? I think it's probably very human. Mm-hmm. Um, now that's great. If you can raise yourself to that level, if you are right now one of those people that yeah. Obeys instructions and answers other people's questions, you gotta change much more dramatically. Um, because ultimately that's the stuff, if you can write mediocre essays, you know, given articles based on someone else's instruction, well, you know, you're about to come obsolete. So learn to write better essays or find something else to do.

Johannes Castner:

Yeah. Yeah, you're right. Uh, I, I see, I see that. So then, you know, so then in terms of the portfolio collective, how do you see. The, the empowerment of your members directly related to ai, do you do any, any courses on that? Do you, do you help your members to in, in this way?

Ben Legg:

So, yeah, I'd say not yet. Um, but our members help each other. So one of the reasons we formed the port project picture, the port product sector before it existed, was actually just a workshop with me teaching people how to have portfolio careers. And I got so many questions in the workshop I didn't know the answer to, but someone else in the workshop could answer it. And so what we realized is, It takes a community to train a community as opposed to it takes, you know, individual knowledgeable people. So yes, we have courses, and the courses have a lot of input from me and my co-founder and others, but basically we think by gathering the right brains, Someone will know the answer to everything. So what, what's going on right now? What will probably go on in the future? What goes on right now is in every discussion people are talking about the latest productivity hack or tool or example they've seen. So there's a lot of organic learning going on, but it's not very structured. Um, what will happen in the future is when we can get the engineering done, which will be sometime this year, we will enable our members who are, you know, thought leaders or experts in the subject. To run courses for other members of the community, train them in whatever they want to train them in. What that will then mean is we've got all these experts, amazing experts, almost everyone's an expert in something different, and they can say, Hey, you know, I'm an expert in using generative AI for architecture. I'm totally making that up. But, you know, uh, yeah, as I, and then, you know, anyone else that's interested can, can go to their workshops or pick their brains. So I think the key for us is, Gather, you know, an amazing array of experts, which arguably we've done. But then give them the tools to showcase and teach and share, uh, which, and, and that can be done as in a workshop. It can be done in an article that can be done, uh, in one-on-one meetings. It can be done as a consultant, you know, just, uh, helping others and, and we don't read too prescriptive there. Just make sure we think of the right use cases so that. Um, our members can help each other in whatever permutations or combinations.

Johannes Castner:

Make sense? Yeah, that's great. So this relates directly to the peer-to-peer economy, is that right?

Ben Legg:

Exactly. Very much so. Yeah. So,

Johannes Castner:

and um, so that's, that's great. So in this, uh, I have an episode where we get into the details of this with the sharing economy and the collaborative economy and so on, and there are big players like Google and then there's small players and everybody can sort of play I guess this, um, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's great. That's great. So you have also people who. Um, who demand. So you are also very much connected to, um, to employers as well of, of this. And, and how do you see that side?

Ben Legg:

Um, increasingly I'd say, so we founded the portfolio connecting very much with a focus on the members. Um, I like helping people have great careers and, you know, so it is a, you know, and we, we formed the portfolio section early lockdown, when a lot of people were really, Thinking a lot about their careers and having career resets, et cetera. Um, and so we said we'll focus for in the early days, a hundred percent on the community. We're gonna help you with training, with community, with collaboration, with problem solving. Increasingly, we're getting approaches a few per week now could be three. One week seven the next week it says it's not high volume yet, but from companies looking for fractional talent. I need a mentor for a founder. I need a fractional chief of staff. I need a, a interim cfo. F I need a, um, a professional who can help me launch in the us. Um, yeah, I, I need someone to help me with a rebranding, you know, all these kinds of things. And, um, they come to us cuz they know we have a community of smart people. We haven't made it very easy for them to find it in a self-serve way. So they tend to literally email me or one of the team and say, can you help? And then we'll go and find the talent. So what we need to do a much better job of is helping employers find talent as efficiently as possible. What we have done a great job of is gathering the talent so that it's there. Um, so, so I'd say. It's one of the bigger folks in the moment is helping more and more organizations tap into the talent in our community rather than having to ask us, and then we sort of have to do some work in the

Johannes Castner:

middle. Great. Great. So you are, um, the, you're pretty successful at selling this future, right? Is it, I mean, the employers, are they still sort of slack on the old model in a large degree or, you know, how is this

Ben Legg:

I, I think, yeah. I'd say most of the companies that come to us are startups and scale-UPS and VCs, so arguably much more innovative organizations that, um, are very comfortable with new ways of working. So I would say that world. Either already try to use a mix of full-time and fractional, or the moment you talk to 'em and say, I, I want that, that's much more efficient. I can tap into fractional talent faster, cheaper, better. It's more flexible. Keep my fixed cost down. Where do I sign? You know, so there's definitely, um, an easy, it's an easy sell. Let's say, um, if they're not already there. For larger organizations, I think a lot of people just don't get it. And the ones that do just say, it's hard. Yeah. For more junior work, you can, you can use fractional work. You want a logo design. You can go to, you know, Upwork and get a logo designer. But if you want a fractional executive or a really good project manager, it's just hard to find the talent. And so in many ways there's an inertia because no one's really cracked the problem for making it easy to find fractional talent. Um, yeah. And so I think that's part of the, we are solving and there's other platforms out there trying to solve it too, um, is say right, you want, I dunno, anything, let's just say a part-time HR director available two or three days a week, who has experience in health tech? Um, AI and, uh, remote work, you know, with, with a, with a global team straddle over the place. In a perfect world, you go to a platform, go filter, filter, filter, filter. Oh, look, there's a short list of three people or five people, whoever. I'll connect with them, see if they're available, and ask them what their day rate is. That doesn't exist anywhere. So that's a lot of work to get there. And quite frankly, building the platform's, the easy of it, it's gathering the right talent so that you've got a short list of suitable, available, affordable people. Um, you know, for every possible permutation of role. That's the hard bit. Um, so this is a journey. I don't think anyone is gonna solve it fast. Even if you could build a platform in three months, which with the right budget, and you probably could. Um, yeah, gathering the people and getting them to behave the right way and assessing quality. So you're not recommending people who, who, who are, who are maybe not great. Um, yeah, that takes time. So it, it's a journey, but, um, Yeah. Big companies, you know, as always, they'll be asleep at the wheel until they're about to crash, and then they'll quickly grab the steering wheel and get back on the road as it were. Um, but, uh, they're not gonna rush into a new way of working because no one's pushing them to. Startups are over 50% there already. Wow. Over

Johannes Castner:

50% already there

Ben Legg:

start. Yeah, because they, they, if you really think about it, you know, from, from a startup, and I'm gonna talk right up to about series B. Let's take series B as an example. Let's say you've just raised 20, 30 million. Do you really want a senior management team of eight or 10 people all learning over 200 grand a year? Because simplistically, that's gonna burn 3 million a year. For people who don't really do much frontline work just for the people that manage stuff, I'd argue differently not! You know, and, and I'll give you simple examples that I see a lot is a lot of Series B founders will say, do you know what? I don't need a CFO earning 200, 250 grand a year. I'll get a head of finance earning 80 or a hundred. And I'll get him or her a mentor who's been a CFO for 20 grand a year. And so my combined wage bill's a hundred grand a year. I've just half my wage bill for finance leadership. I get the same amount of work done.

Johannes Castner:

You can also be more resilient then cause

Ben Legg:

Totally, yeah. Yeah, because if, if the market changes or as an in between, they might say, I'll get a finance director working three days a week or four days a week. So, you know, it is. But basically playing around with senior, junior, part-time, full-time to get the optimal configuration.

Johannes Castner:

Yeah. That's fantastic. Yeah. And so that, that should be an easy selling point then for small companies.

Ben Legg:

It is. It's, it's like, yeah, do you want, do you wanna half the wage bill of, of your senior leadership, I mean, simplistically, and you don't always achieve 50% saving, but you might achieve 30, 40, 50%. But you can save money while getting the same amount of work done. And probably with people who are more enthusiastic as well. I've actually spoke on that finance example. I know lots of people have been, let's say, series B CFOs. Um, if you're in FinTech, they might enjoy it cuz the product is finance in most other interests saying, do you know what, most of what I did was below my pay grade. Um, yeah, they didn't need me five days a week. They needed me one day a week, uh, or half day a week for the really big decisions around maybe fundraising or debt or tax or, or something complex, uh, for the rest of it that could have had a more junior person.

Johannes Castner:

That's, that's right. And I mean, you can, yeah. That, that makes a lot of sense. AI part. Right. So there's a couple questions here. One is that, are you on the waiting list mm-hmm. For the, for the API access, um, of the GPT-4 or not? And if so, what, what are you thinking of doing with it? So

Ben Legg:

actually I'm not, and I have intended to do, it's been a my to-do list just to sign up. So thank you for ok. Great. Um, but, cause I, I'm, it's one of those things where, I just like playing with new stuff and I, I'll often like just, it's a weekend thing when hopefully there's a bit less pressure to, you know, send emails and other stuff. I'll just play around and, and then my mind takes me in weird places. Like, I wonder if you can do this. I wonder if you can do that. I wonder if you can do that. So, to me, at the moment, it's a playground rather than a tool with a purpose. Um, I also like to. I'm generally a very optimistic person and see opportunities everywhere, but I also want to take, play with my cynics hat on and say, where is the, where is it overhyped? Because you hear of all these user cases. So a a, a simple example, I was chatting with our lead dev yesterday and saying, right, okay, generative ai, how will it help us build tech faster or better? Anyway, cause you read these examples of on LinkedIn or whatever, where someone says, I just gave instructions to build an e-commerce website. Telling, telling t-shirts who did it for me? That's not happening. And so the answer I got, who knows more about, you know, code and engineering than me said, look, very cool. Totally doable. But there's a few issues. One is, eCommerce's website, selling t-shirts been built many times before, so you can go and steal someone else's code Number two, uh, is so it also, it won't be differentiated. It'll be good. It might not break, you know, but, but again, it comes back to that point of you can get the average job done. Um, apparently also, I believe that ChatGPT is still working on things written up till middle of 2021, but there's been a lot of advances in the last two years that aren't built in, so you will won't get cutting edge. And then on top of that, you won't get real tailoring to your specific needs, your customer needs, et cetera. So in his mind, he's saying he already uses Gen AI to build the foundation of, let's say, new plugins. And then he will tweak them and it saves him a few hours or maybe a few days per task already. Um, but ultimately it comes back to, it takes a smart person to know what to feed into the machine. It takes a smart person to pick what machine you feed it into, and it takes a smart person to take the end product and then tweak it and incorporate it well. So and I, maybe one day, generative AI can solve some of that. But personally I believe it comes back to the, you know, we'll, we'll all be more directors of work rather than doers of work. And so, yeah, we need to learn to be a good director.

Johannes Castner:

I'm sorry. I mean, I found it more to be, I find it to be the case that I, I'm now programming in English rather than in Python, say, or in scaler. Yes, I can pick the language, you know, for the purpose that is required. You know, it knows all the languages, but in the end, There will be something to debug. It will not, you know, that there is a bug. Yeah. And it'll then figure it out and then so on. We go back and forth and after all is said and done, I think it gives me about, uh, two, like I think I can do things about two times as fast as before, which is amazing, but it isn't. Yes. Yeah. You know, it's doing, it's on its own. I mean, that's not happening as far as I can see it. It's not happening in terms of writing it's disaster.

Ben Legg:

Exactly. No, I'm with you. There's been a report, I think it was McKenzie that looked at, let's say, and, and this was maybe a few months ago, so before the real generative AI bars, but looking at what roles will technology make obsolete. And the answer was virtually none. What it does is makes fractions of every, all obsolete. And so yes, there's absolutely, there will be redundancies because of it, but it's not like any individual is like, you can say, right, we've got a computer now, don't need you. It's okay right now. We, you can do your job in half the time. So do we shrink the overall team? Do we get twice as much done, uh, et cetera? Um, so I think all of our roles, every single person pretty much needs to say. How can I become more productive, you know, with new technology? And the answer is almost always in some way or another. I'm sure for some roles you can only be 5% more productive. In others you can be, you know, 50% or more, more productive. Um, but there's kind of, that seems to be, uh, the way we're going Now, I, I've got a question for you, which is, to your point around coding in English, rather than coding in Python as a, or, um, And as obviously there's a whole no code movement. I assume that generative AI will potentially make, enable a lot of non-engineers to do engineering work. Um, and first of all, is that, is that fair or because of the debugging other stuff, is that not fair? But then linked to that, does that suddenly mean the pace of innovation world will get twice as fast because there's a lot of non-engineers doing engineering work and therefore innovation goes crazy. I would

Johannes Castner:

say that it rather changes the definition of what an engineer. So, so rather than mm-hmm. You know, and I do think that it still requires an engineer, not maybe one who knows how to code in a particular instantiation of programming language like Java or Python. Maybe that will actually change. Maybe it will no longer be profitable. For human to learn a ton of programming languages, it'll still be useful to learn once so that you know how this works. So you can, how exactly how programming works, what, what is to done, what the program does actually for you. Yeah, but then it be very, it will be, it will shift. Essentially, I think it will shift. Mm-hmm. From the low, from the low level coding to the more higher architecting. Yeah. Kinda like as what you were saying, you know, director of um, Director of work rather than the doer of work. Mm-hmm. It's similar to that, you know, so you're, everyone will be like, Michelangelo has a, had a big workshop of artists doing all the art for him, more or less. He did were really his. And, and those were the high priced items, I suppose. You know, and this will be similar to this, I suppose it will be that, that, you know, that the high price items will be the ones where you have to dig a bit deeper still, but you probably will never be on the level of Python code or on the level of scaler code, something like this. Yeah. Which is really interesting. Yeah. Um, so yeah, we all have to learn how to program in English really well, which means you have to have a logic. The logic part of programming will still be there. You have to think about what it is that you actually want because

Ben Legg:

Yeah, it's interesting, isn't it? So, so you're right. So actually the, the language code being English is like, you then need to be able to give very crystal clear instructions and what ifs. And it's almost like you need to talk like you are typing sequel or whatever. It's like, it's kinda like English, but, but using the logic of coding. Just if this, then that and you know, these are the boundaries and what, yeah, so it route to give clear instructions as to what you need the functionality to be. Or you do it in a

Johannes Castner:

discovery kind of way where you. Where you sort of mm-hmm. Try it out with prototypes and then you realize where it fails and then you fix it with better instructions and you go back and forth in, in iterative way. I think that turns out to be probably the one that's necessary, because often there's so many ifs and thens, you can't think of them ahead of time. Yeah. And then, you know, if, if there's too many of them you can build in some machine learning that learns the ifs, ands, uh. Right. And you can do all of that. You could ask, yeah. So there's a lot of you. It's usually applicable, applicable when the ifs, ands, become, when, when that sort of logic becomes large, right? That's when you want to use machine learning instead of actually hard coding things. You wanna learn things and then you wanna build. Interesting test cases. So then the question, mm-hmm Then, then basically how you work forward is by testing, right? So test driven development where you, where you wanna know, okay, what happens if this happens? Right? And then you want the right thing to happen, you train the machine to do the right thing and this kinda each circumstance and you work.

Ben Legg:

And then you get into the whole world of morality too. What is, what is good and bad, which I know is one of your favorite subjects, but is like, how do you make sure that what created is morally is

Johannes Castner:

Well, I think that ethics, and this is what I call, have a new course coming up. By the way, but, but there I have, I call it the crown jewel of intelligence, right? So basically if you know all of the technicalities of how something works or whatever, but you don't know what is the right thing to do or what it should do and what is the thing, you know, what is the good thing you want? Actually, you're not that intelligent. Yeah. So, so I think that intelligence is really, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it is. It is sort of the crown jewel of intelligence to know what is the right thing to do. Yeah. What an algorithm should do, what it should not do, and so on the same in company. This as a general principle, right. The, the leaders we consider wise are the ones who see what is the right thing to do in the long run. You know, otherwise, eventually the whole thing will fall apart. I think.

Ben Legg:

Wow. My mind's now racing to education and not just like university education, but like, you know, younger kids. It's like, how do we teach our kids to survive in this world? They, they need to be much better at. I guess giving clear instructions, much better at understanding mm-hmm. Um, unforeseen outcomes and, um, and much better understanding, you know, morality, much better understanding. How to, I dunno. Pick technologies, utilize them. Um, I, my mind's kind of racing really. I've got a lot of kids, like my oldest is 28, my youngest is 2. Um, obviously the older ones need to learn on the job cuz they're in work now. But the younger ones is like, you know what, what should I expect 'em to be learning? And, and will the education system let them down? Well, I

Johannes Castner:

just had a, a guest on, actually two weeks ago, she has this thing called a Dream Verse Learning lab, and that's, it's a very interesting model mm-hmm. That I think would plug in quite well with the, with the portfolio collective. It goes from children to grownups. Oh yeah. And actually, yeah, so, so the metrics are really about build building businesses outta what's available locally in, in some cases it's a very physical thing. She was talking about bamboo and rocks and things like that. But in some cases it could be, it could be really fascinat across the board in a sort of discoverable kind way that I think seems to be natural to us humans. Yes, yes. We wanna discover things. We want to explore. And I think this is this, this, this seems to be very much on common grounds with the, with the philosophy of the portfolio collective.

Ben Legg:

Oh yeah. Big time. Yeah. Yeah. Um, no, for sure. Um, yeah, we're all trying to work it out and pretty comfortable with learning by doing and learning by modeling through as well. Um, you know, Rather than knowing all the answers upfront, which no one has anymore. Yeah, exactly.

Johannes Castner:

Exactly. Yeah. No, this is great. Um, so you, could you give us an example of someone in the portfolio collective who had a really interesting portfolio career that you would like to highlight?

Ben Legg:

I, there's kind of loads I, because we've got such a massive variety, I mean, a typical member of the portfolio collective. Has, um, typically been reasonably senior that most of our members are thirties, forties, fifties, not by design. We'd have to have more people in their sixties and twenties, but a lot of thirties, forties, fifties. They've often, let's say, led a business function in a startup or scale up or a big tech company. Not always, but yeah, there might have been a CTO of a series A company, a c F of a series B, a chief of staff, somewhere, whatever. And, and so very often a big part of their portfolio career is doing that in a fractional way. You know, the, the former CFO will be a mentor to, um, you know, a junior finance more, more junior finance people, or the, um, the, the CTO O might be a sort of, um, mixture of d consulting, mentoring, advisory work, et cetera. Um, but then most of our members do in addition to their maybe a fractional job or two, And quite a bit of consulting. They'll tuck it in with a bit of angel investing, maybe a little bit of helping out at a university somewhere, um, maybe writing a book, doing the odd speech, uh, doing some stuff for charity, helping out with their kids' school. So one of the beauties of a portfolio career is, You get a few things that are, you know, nicely looked at and pay the bills, and then the rest of the time you do what makes you happy or gives back, or maybe creates long-term wealth through angel investing or sweat equity or something like that. So it's a really diverse group. I mean, you asked for examples. I, I won't go into all the detail, but basically, Um, one of the groups that we have attracted within our community are, are sort of ex-military and ex spies, and I always find their backgrounds fascinating, partly cuz they won't tell me what they did. Um, but, uh, it, it's kinda interesting to see that, you know, how those people adapt to, um, you know, let's say the, the entrepreneurial Yeah, it

Johannes Castner:

is. And what, what is your geographic, uh, coverage of.

Ben Legg:

So, right. We we're global by design and was founded in lockdown. So, you know, boundaries didn't matter then. And I agree, don't matter now, it is about 50% uk. Uh, myself and Fiona, my co-founder are both, um, based in London, but you know, city number two is New York City. Number three is Berlin, et cetera. So, A lot of our members are in the obvious tech hubs where you get a lot of, you know, people who've worked in startup scale up, vbc, you know, big tech, et cetera. Um, but also there's a lot of people who move to Greece or Portugal or whatever during lockdown and, and, uh, and are still there. So, and they're sort of, you know, being portfolio professionals from wherever they sort of, uh, move to China.

Johannes Castner:

So is it, uh, is it fair to say that it's mostly the northern hemisphere or. Western country.

Ben Legg:

Yes. It, it's, um, one of the main reasons people join us is either to attend events or courses. They are typically running sort of Europe friendly times, which basically means even in North America we're pretty strong on the East coast, not so strong on the West Coast because our times don't work well in California and likewise in Asia we're pretty strong in India, not so strong in Singapore or Australia because of time zones. As we expand and have a bit more money, we will be, you know, running course and events in other time zones too. But in essence, East coast, US to India. Um, you with a center of crown. Great.

Johannes Castner:

Great. Uh, so what, is there something I think we we're coming to an end, I think in terms of your time, so is there something you would like the viewer, or the listener, depends on how they tune in, to take away away from this discussion you.

Ben Legg:

I mean, there's, there's so much going on. But I guess the key is take your destiny into your own hands. Even if you've got a full-time job, start a side hustle. Start developing your own skills. Don't accept what the IT department tells you is the right software. You know, go and find some something better or more interesting. Uh, cuz ultimately, You don't want to one day, you know, get laid off and find your skills or obsolete, just take it in your own hands to have an amazing career. Be learning every day. And there's so many ways to, and if you're not sure you know how, join the portfolio collective and will help you work out how.

Johannes Castner:

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