Editor’s note: This is an edited version of an article titled “An invisible, moving target: Studying the culture of tech."

The year was 1834 and Thomas Davenport threw back the curtains to reveal his invention: a battery-powered electric motor. The townsfolk went nuts. “Look at this beautiful thing!” they shouted. Fifteen silent minutes passed and they asked, “What do we do with it?”

While there are plenty of people who admire engines as standalone objects, most of us are more interested in how that technology is used. The motor is ubiquitous. We don’t spend time thinking about the big motors that power water treatment plants and tornado sirens or the itty-bitty ones that power our laptop fans and moderately-spooky Teddy Ruxpin dolls. Now let us consider the current fervor around AI technology.

Right this minute, technology is experiencing its biggest paradigm shift in the last 20 years. With OpenAI turning the entire tech world on its head, we are at an interesting crossroads. Will AI become a reliable personal assistant? Will it be seen as a supplemental employee? Will it impact workplace roles and hiring needs? How will AI evolve as it transitions from a proof-of-concept to a capitalist asset? Will AI achieve world domination? AI’s growing impact and its potential for wide-scale societal change is undeniable and difficult to predict.

A million users in five days. That’s how fast ChatGPT grew. It took Facebook around 300 days to hit the same landmark. When we say that disruption, by definition, is exceedingly rare, this viral rate of adoption is what we’re talking about. Our current technological landscape is entering a massive shift and this time it's not limited to Silicon Valley, the military or NASA. This is about how we live our lives and do our jobs. It involves society, ethics, data privacy and our relationships with products and brands.

The integration of AI into the fabric of ...