Once upon a time … maybe four or five years ago … all businesses were supposed to be planning their digital transition. Or maybe it was crafting a digital strategy. Or else it was implementing (or, more accurately, “installing”) a few digital technologies out of a list provided by one of the often-tedious punditocracies our field is plagued by.

Or …

When uncertain, defining terms is often a healthy place to start. With that intention and some Google-enhanced searching I ran across this, a typical example:

A digital strategy is your plan for introducing and using digital technology to meet your business goals. A clear digital strategy can help you make sure that your digital presence is current, future-proof and achieves your intended goals.

I guess starting with defining terms doesn’t guarantee results, as defining “digital” as “being digital” is a few klicks less than helpful.

Nor is the phrase “future proof” any more meaningful than the tiresome and over-used “best practice.” In the case of best practice, “best” only becomes known when the future gets here and a better approach doesn’t. In the case of future proofedness the only business that even barely approximated it is Guinness, whose eponymous founder, Arthur, signed a 9,000-year, 45 £ annual lease. That event happened on December 31, December 1759.

Now that’s future-proofing. Every other example of future-proofing I’ve ever run across is just so much arrogant stupidity, because, speaking of definitions, Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary defines “future” quite well: it’s “That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.”

Keep in mind that even the profession with the most expertise in foreseeing the future … science-fiction writers … missed the personal computer entirely.

So let’s put the question I posed at the beginning of this screed to bed: If AI is a digital strategy then “digital” isn’t dead yet. Otherwise?

Back when forward-looking business leaders cared about Digital, whether as a noun-less adjective or an adjective tied to one or more business nouns (“strategy,” “transformation,” and “revolution” come to mind), Digital and its lexicographical derivatives did matter for a fleeting period of time. That was when its proponents briefly recognized that cutting costs was not (and still is not) a perceptive new way of thinking about business success … that for many business contexts, growing profitable revenue wasn’t just more interesting than cutting costs, it was (and still is) more fun, too.

Back in those halcyon days, Digital, according to KJR and its like-minded sources of business insights, meant using newly emerging or under-exploited technologies to build new business capabilities, which, once mastered, could be used to bring new products and services to market quickly, because so much of what’s needed to bring them to market is already in place.

So yes, Digital still lives, because the thought processes now being attached to artificial intelligence are all about using AI to add new capabilities – new capabilities that, for the time being at least, have the potential to create competitive advantage, and especially products and services Real Paying Customers might find interesting and valuable.

Bob’s Last Word: Speaking of future-proofing, competitive advantages, and so on I’m still not convinced Nvidia’s current AI marketplace dominance is sustainable, seeing as how a competitor might ask an Nvidia-based AI to design a superior AI chip.

And, failing that, how one might instead employ genetic algorithms for that purpose.