Despite all the hype, AI has yet to make a transformative impact on most businesses. The technology has produced a few must-haves, so a lot of companies are making minor investments in AI. But at this stage of the technology’s development, this cautious approach is a mistake that could prove to be fatal for many businesses.
The companies that don’t begin transforming into AI-driven organizations in the next five years place themselves at risk of extinction. In 2026 we will reach a phase I call AI AbundanceTM, a moment when AI’s adoption accelerates so quickly that any company not already deploying AI will be unable to catch up.
Because I’m making a bold, specific claim about the future, I’ll carefully lay out my reasoning. This essay isn’t about AI as a technology but rather about how companies choose to respond to this inevitable and disruptive shift. I hope it helps you convince your executive leadership to take AI more seriously and accelerate your AI transformation investments.
For simplicity I’ll use the term exponential technologies to refer to technologies that follow an exponential adoption growth curve. Ray Kurzweil famously calls this growth phenomenon the law of accelerating returns. AI is an exponential technology, as were the internet, electricity, COVID-19, plant-based meats, electric cars, and Bitcoin.
Exponential technologies develop slowly at first. Few people even notice them in the beginning stage. As adoption picks up, more people recognize their potential but only a few take action. These technologies reach a tipping point when everyone sees the new reality, tries to act at once, and kicks themselves for not acting earlier.
Exponential curves are mathematically continuous functions, but we can break our human reaction to them into three distinct phases, as illustrated in Figure 1.