Preparing Communities for the AI Revolution with Jono Bacon

Preparing Communities for the AI Revolution with Jono Bacon

In this episode of "Peers over Beers." The hosts are Chris Detzel and Nicole Sanders, and they are speaking with a special guest named Jono Bacon. The conversation is casual and friendly, beginning with a check-in on how Nicole is doing after a business trip.

Jono Bacon is introduced as a prominent figure in community building and consulting. He has authored five books centered around community, two of which have been notable successes: "People Powered" and "The Art of Community." He shares a brief history of his career, expressing his passion for communities and detailing his experiences from his introduction to Linux and the open-source community, to building the Ubuntu community, and working at X Prize and Github. Jono’s journey led him to start his own consulting business, which he later transitioned to launch the Community Leadership Core, an accelerator for companies investing in community building.

Jono shares some insights from his career, acknowledging the learning and growth in his understanding of community building over the years. Chris Detzel also shares his own experiences and learning in building online communities across different companies. The conversation then turns to a discussion about trends, particularly focusing on the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) on communities and the world in general.

Chris mentions a recent visit to Forrester Research and references George Colony, the CEO, who has a reputation for accurately predicting future trends. The transcript ends abruptly with Chris starting to discuss iPhones, indicating that the conversation might shift to discussing technology trends or related topics.

Jono Bacon and Nicole Saunders discuss the impacts of AI on jobs and communities. Below is a summary of their conversation:

Jono begins by sharing his recent dining experience at a restaurant called Single Thread where he and his friends discuss AI. He expresses concern about the capabilities of AI, indicating it was the first time he was genuinely a little scared about technology. He forecasts the shift with AI will come in various forms, particularly in helping humans create outcomes, generate strategic direction, and provide guidance. He praises the AI model Chat GPT for its ability to take on various roles, like a business adviser or a therapist, and its potential to identify trends and patterns in massive data sets.

Jono also talks about the use of AI in generating content. He points out the need for feeding the right kind of material to AI for generating valuable content. He mentions that while AI will be helpful in many areas, it may put a lot of people out of work, including community managers creating content. However, he sees this as an opportunity for community managers to focus more on engaging and interacting with people, rather than creating content.

Nicole shares her thoughts on the impact of AI on community management, focusing on product communities. She notes that AI, with its ability to answer a lot of questions and help generate content, will lead to a shift in the role of community managers. She expresses the need for communities to hold value beyond just providing answers to questions, which AI can easily handle.

Nicole states that communities will become more valuable as places where people can connect with real humans to get answers that AI cannot provide, since AI lacks personal experiences and perspectives. She talks about a significant pivot in their community to start encompassing broader customer experience-related conversations that move away from just tactical Q&A.

Jono agrees with Nicole and emphasizes the need for community managers to pivot their roles. He says that community managers whose primary task is answering questions will be replaced by AI, pushing community management into a more meaningful direction. He envisions communities as places where people build relationships, mentor, and support each other, which AI cannot do.

Jono underscores that people do not pay for information that AI can provide but do pay for experience, which only human community managers can offer. He suggests that those working in lower-level support should start thinking about other roles as they will likely be replaced by AI.

Nicole ends the conversation by talking about the potential for AI to make jobs better by eliminating mundane tasks and freeing up individuals for more meaningful work. She emphasizes the importance of learning and experimenting with AI now to avoid being left behind as AI technology evolves.

Jono and Nicole discuss the challenges and opportunities that AI presents, especially in the field of community management. They acknowledge the potential of AI to take over certain roles but also highlight the irreplaceable human elements that community managers provide. They encourage adaptation and learning about AI to ensure individuals and communities do not get left behind in this technological revolution.

This section focuses on the digital divide and how artificial intelligence (AI) could potentially exacerbate existing inequalities.

Jono Bacon notes that growing up in a household with access to information and a culture of learning is crucial for taking advantage of new technologies like AI. He reflects on his own upbringing in government housing in England, where his family didn't have much money but his parents nurtured his intellectual curiosity.

Bacon expresses concern that people from disadvantaged backgrounds may get "left behind" as AI automates certain jobs like manual labor and frontline customer support roles. He argues that equal access to education and the internet will be critical to ensure people have opportunities to transition into new types of work.

Nicole Saunders adds that entry-level and frontline jobs often serve as stepping stones into companies and industries. She asks where people will start their careers if AI displaces many of these starter positions.

Jono Bacon speculates the nature of entry-level work will shift with AI, requiring adaptability and dexterity with new technologies. But he acknowledges the digital divide could still limit opportunities for poorer communities without the same access to learning and internet connectivity.

Bacon sees projects like Elon Musk's Starlink, which provides satellite internet access globally, as potential solutions. Overall, the hosts agree proactive efforts will be needed to close the digital divide and prevent AI from disproportionately impacting lower-income populations. But they express optimism that emerging tools like AI also create new possibilities for community building.

Creators and Guests

Chris Detzel
Chris Detzel
Chris is a versatile Digital Community Strategist with several years of experience. He has owned community vision, strategy, and execution. He is responsible for leading the development and execution of community engagement programs, creating compelling content for customer communities and acts as the voice of the customer. He believes that data should drive decisions as it is the key element of any long-term successful strategy.
Nicole Saunders
Nicole Saunders
As Director of Community at Zendesk, she oversee the Community Team (part of the Global Digital Experiences team), set strategy, define policy and governance, develop and launch new community products, and engage our user community. Our programs include: an online community, virtual events, user groups, community champions, customer advocacy, and an annual global virtual community summit.
Jono Bacon
Jono Bacon
Community and collaboration strategy consultant enabling companies to build powerful, productive communities and teams. Author of 'People Powered: How communities can supercharge your business, brand, and teams' and 'The Art of Community' and author at Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, and elsewhere. Advisor and Investor with Coda, Mautic, AlienVault, Commsor, Moltin, HackerOne, Relate, Underscore.VC, and others.