A few days ago I sat down for a chat with WordPress Co-Founder Matt Mullenweg to discuss WordPress and Ai.
During our discussion, we delved into the imminent wave of disruption poised to revolutionise our experiences and the remarkable opportunities that lie ahead as AI permeates the WordPress ecosystem.
WordPress Co-Founder Matt Mullenweg on the Ai REVOLUTION 🔥 – YouTube
(00:00) Good morning. A few days ago, I had the privilege of sitting down and chatting to Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress and the CEO of Automattic, the guys behind WordPress.com. It was a wide ranging and fascinating chat about all things WordPress and all things at ai, and the intersection of those two things and what it means for us all.
(00:19) So I hope you find this one useful. I’ll see you at the end for a quick catch up. I was reading one of your blog posts from 2014 and you were talking about the four freedoms of WordPress, and specifically you quoted William Gibson, which is the future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.
(00:40) Yeah. Which is like, it makes sense to me now. And I guess the first question is, do you think that’s gonna get worse with AI or better? Mm, I think there will be more. Uh, Yeah, more disparity in terms of like, there will be people or societies or companies that embrace AI that will. Have a ton of upside and yeah, the future is here is just not evenly distributed.
(01:12) You can think about it through culture and society as well. Like there’s cultures that still don’t use electricity in, in the world. Yeah. You know, there’s cultures that still don’t use, so like there’s whatever innovation goes through things like electricity, like the steam engine, like antibiotics, like how does it disperse? And AI is one of these things that is, uh, A fun as fundamental as some of these other things I’ve mentioned and civilizations that adopt it will, uh, advance far faster than those that don’t.
(01:44) And, and in terms of the open source question and, and ai, do you feel there’s a, a, there’s clearly a good fit between WordPress and ai, but do you think there’s a friction between WordPress and its open source nature and AI and all? You know, WordPress has always been about collecting the best ideas from everywhere and bringing ’em together.
(02:04) You know, we don’t care about, we’re not trying to be first. We’re not trying to say get credit. We’re not trying to say like, we, you know, anything. We’re just like, what’s the best? And take that idea. Merit meritocracy. Yeah. Bring all the best stuff together and try to, uh, Make it a product for our community.
(02:28) And I think that’s very much inherent in the philosophy of the WordPress community, is being open to good ideas coming from everywhere. You know, innovation, much like evolution, you know, happens randomly throughout the world and you never know where, uh, something is gonna great come from, maybe. Pops up in type oh three or quadruple, or a Squarespace or like anyone who creates something great, like, awesome, you discover something.
(02:55) Now let’s, let’s, let’s clone that and like make it even better. Bill on top of it, so specifically around WordPress in terms of there’s gonna be this huge wave of disruption probably heading our way in terms of whether you are a freelance or an agency, or a content producer, or a website builder, or an educator.
(03:16) All of us are gonna be impacted on this. I just, I just wonder if you’ve got a sense of what that looks like for each of those. You see this wave coming. Do you, do you have a sense of what that looks like for each of those roles yet that you could be confident about roles? Right. Because you now have, I, I love the word co-pilot is, you know, coming up in a lot of things.
(03:36) Like, you now have like, uh, co-pilot and assistant, uh, you know, 24 7. Giga brain that can help you Yeah. Accomplish whatever you wanna accomplish. And you can tap into that knowledge to write plugins, to learn new things, to be a personalized tutor, to create courses. Like we still need to train our own neuro, neuro networks, right? So like, yeah, like, but now we have the assistants of these incredible tools, much like, you know, information itself, you know, with the.
(04:10) The Gutenberg printing press and other things, all of a sudden ideas could be spread in a way. It didn’t have to be like person to person telling. We could print it, we could replicate it and see how that accelerated humanity. When we were exposed to ideas, we could kind of download them into our mind and then like start playing with them.
(04:28) Now that’s gonna, that’s happening at a global scale. And that’s why I think communication is really key. So the future for publishing is really key and commerce is key. So those three areas are ones that I’m very excited to see open source solutions exist for, uh, the world. Yeah. And have you got any advice for, for businesses in terms of how to.
(04:50) Leverage it internally. Like, are you in Automattic, are you, have you put strategies in place for how that that’s happening? Play with it. You know? So I would say that right now these are, we’re literally creating new tools, new life forms, maybe intelligences. Yeah. Like, so kind of like the first time someone created a wheel or someone created a magnifying glass or a, you know, just play with it.
(05:16) And see what you can do with it. Like humans have used tools throughout history to make ourselves more productive, whether that’s a plow or glasses or microscopes or telescopes or, you know, we use these things to augment our understanding of, of the way the world works. And this is just a new tool. So, uh, you gotta become fluent with it.
(05:38) Learn to use it. It’s got its own kind of ways of working with it. Just like you learned to drive a car at one point and think of all how that that unlocked for you. Everyone who can drive, like now you can move at these great speeds and you can control it and like, It’s a huge responsibility. That’s why we license it.
(05:58) That’s why we train people. Uh, you could also kill someone with a car, you know, if you used it irresponsibly, you could hurt yourself or others. So we have these rules around it, but it’s a, it’s a very powerful tool and it unlocks so much creativity and human expression. You know, think of transportation and families and everything that was unlocked by, by cars.
(06:20) This is a new tool, so just think of it like that. Do you see, do you see this as the, the most profound thing that’s been invented in, in your lifetime? Ooh, I think I heard you say that on a podcast the other day, is why I mention it. I think it, it’s up there with, in my lifetime, I put this up there with the internet itself.
(06:41) Okay. Yeah. In terms of. Definitely the internet connecting humanity has accelerated our, our intellectual evolution so quickly, right? Cuz now memes can evolve and ideas can evolve faster than, you know, generations. You and I can be exposed to something. An idea like freedom, democracy, human rights, and like, That can then change how we think about things.
(07:06) You can be exposed to the idea of open source and say like, oh, this is the way to build things and that can change the course of your life. You can read one essay and all of a sudden, like your brain is rewired Cool, a. Now these large language models that have collected all the wisdom, all the intelligence of everything humans have produced so far are presenting it back to us in ways that are interesting and novel, I think are pretty exciting.
(07:35) Are you using it day to day yourself? A lot at the moment? Are you a, do you, do you class yourself an AI native? So when you think of a task, do you reach for the old, the old way of doing it? Or are you now starting to think about AI as part of your daily workflow? I would like to use it more. Yeah. So I’m definitely subscribe to, you know, Open AI, GPT 4 and everything like that.
(07:58) Yeah. I love how it’s now starting to be built into the tools I use, including like Gutenberg with JetPack Ai. So we’re getting some things built in. So I think these are gonna be embedded into a lot of different tools in ways that I’m pretty excited about. So it’s not gonna look just like Chat GPT, it’s gonna.
(08:16) Be embedded into every single application, including WordPress, including, you know, day one, your journaling software. How cool would it be for like a fully private, you know, running locally language model to run over your diary, your journal. Which literally has your life, your life in it. So if you’ve done the work to put your life into something like day one, now all of a sudden you can query that, you can talk to it, you can ask at things.
(08:44) When was the last time, you know, I saw James, uh, you know, have a conversation with your calendar. I think that’s gonna be a new form of interacting with our databases and computing that is gonna be, uh, very generative and really enable, unlock a lot of productivity for people. And have you, you’ve been following the mu cuz you’re a musician by, by nature, I think by background.
(09:05) Yeah. So have you been following the, the progress in, in music and some of the ethical quandaries around that as well, which is, is so cool. I mean, music itself, uh, you know, I. When you think of it, sheet music is source code. It’s instructions, how to execute a song, how to recreate it over and over again.
(09:24) Sometimes it’s pirated, right? Like when I was in jazz, there was this thing called the real book, which was like an illicit copy of all the standards that would show like the tunes and the melodies and stuff, but it wasn’t licensed cuz they couldn’t get copyright. Clearance or something. So you had to buy it.
(09:40) Like I literally went to some guy’s house and paid cash and got it in a paper bag and, but this was essentially like we were trading source code, you know, source code for how to make good music. I really excited, I’m following what Grimes is doing where she said, you know, anyone is allowed to use my voice and if you make a hit, we’ll share around the revenue.
(10:01) Yeah, that’s pretty cool. I just heard something the other day where someone took a. Billy Eilish song, is it Billy Eilish? Name of the artist? Yeah. Wow. And did it in Frank Sinatra’s voice. And that was like, it gave me chills, you know? Here was old blue eyes, literally someone who’s not with us anymore.
(10:24) And you know, that little growl the way like, and he was singing one of these Billy Eilish songs, which was a beautiful song, and bringing his kind of character to it. I was like, wow. That’s interesting. Who, what? Cool. And art is always about remixing, like every single artist is influenced by what’s going on around them and what preceded them.
(10:45) Art is always a reflection of what came before. Yeah, I think music is fascinating. I think somebody did a McCartney song the other day and they, they, they took a McCartney song from now and they took his 70 year old voice and then they took his 20 year old voice and people preferred the. The 20 year old voice.
(11:03) So there’s, there’s a question for artists around, you know, if you are, if you are the Stones or the, or McCartney, you could actually release an AI album and nobody potentially would ever know about it. Who are we to constrict artists from expressing themselves? Yeah. You know, would you mind if, would you mind if you knew it as an AI artist? And it was like an old dead jazz saxophonist.
(11:25) You know, these arguments happened when photography was invented. My goodness. People are not gonna wanna paint anymore. They’re not gonna learn to paint. Paintings aren’t gonna matter because now we can just like capture the scene. So if you look and study like the, the history of technological change, every time there’s been something like this, there’s been a lot of worry.
(11:45) And what’s always ended up happening is it’s more of a yes. And you know, like, uh, sure people are still painting and painting. Took, you know, since the invent of the camera, like has taken some amazing twists and turns, you know? Yeah. We’ve had Picasso, we’ve had like so many things since like the dimension of the camera.
(12:06) It didn’t kill painting. Yeah. I think it’ll, I think it will have new art forms. I was playing with the Photoshop AI generative stuff the other day, which is, you know, which is incredible. Yeah. I think what happens is that people, we call things technology when they’re new and then we forget that it’s technology when we’ve been around forever, like we forget that.
(12:25) Glasses are technology that was invented at that point and that was new. And yes, we were modding our bodies. Contact lenses like, yes, we’re modifying, we’re bionic now. But guess what it means? You can see things sharper and we’re correcting for stuff. So paper, the pencil, like all of these things were invented by someone at some point and then spread throughout society.
(12:50) If you did have a concern about ai, cause there’s lots of people prophesizing the death of humanity. I’m guessing you wouldn’t buy into that theory at all. I think we should study that very closely. Just like when we started to unlock the power of the atom. And you know, it can be used for nuclear power.
(13:09) It could also be used for nuclear bombs. So I think that with generative ai, it could be used to create beautiful music, could also be used to spam everyone, you know? Yeah. So these tools can be used for good and bad. Just like every technology that came before it, you know, the Gutenberg press could print the Bible, it could also print.
(13:32) Mind come or something, you know, it’s, they can be used for good and evil. So, uh, that is up to us as humans to, to really think about our principles, the world we wanna live in, what are sort of like fundamental human rights that we consider important, that regardless of whatever technology is happening, we want to preserve and fact enhance.
(13:56) So that’s why I dedicate my life to open source. It’s like, okay, if I’m gonna create. If I’m good at creating technology and software, I want all the software I make, like the work that I pour my, you know, blood, sweat, and tears into to give to the world. I want that to make people more free, not less free.
(14:15) I wanted to make society more open, not less open. I want to give people more autonomy and control over their lives, and that’s why the four freedoms of the G P L are so important. It’s like our constitution. It gives people rights, inalienable rights, rights that can never be taken away by me or anyone else.
(14:31) If I woke up tomorrow, you know, I, someone hit my head and I became crazy or evil or something like that, WordPress would be fine. All could fork it. You know, like you could take all of the code, everything that’s been created and make, you know, a knot map, press, or whatever it is. If I were ever not a good leader, like, you know, the software could fork, the community could fork, and those rights cannot be taken away, even if, you know, I were no longer benevolent or a good leader or whatever.
(15:00) So that’s, I think, really important. What’s the most exciting application of AI that you’ve personally used so far? Ooh. So the Jetpack AI stuff I think is really fun. And we’ve got something there that we’ve launched with Seth Godin. This is live, so if you go to, uh, Seth, stop blog slash bot.
(15:29) So Seth, incredibly prolific writer marketer. Wise guy, you know, he has a lot of wisdom. I think he’s published over 3 million words in his life. We were able to feed that all into one of these language models and we’ve launched a bot on his site. But you can like, like you or I, getting access to Seth time would be a really valuable thing, right? And he can’t give that to 8 billion people.
(15:57) But now we can run it on a computer and take. The 3 million plus words he’s published over his lifetime, and you can ask it a question. And so we trained this bots just as we were doing it. We trained it on like the WordPress Support docs. We trained it on my blog. We created a bot off Tim Ferris’s transcripts and blogs and everything.
(16:18) And it was kind of fun to ask the same question to these different. Spots these different avatars of, you know, everything I’ve published, everything WordPresses, you know, and I think I asked the question like, I want to grow my sites. Uh, how do I do it? You know, question, someone might have, they started launching something new, wanna get more traffic? And it was really fun.
(16:39) Like the, the WordPress support docs was like, install this plugin. You know, make sure you. You know, do have good SEO and clean markups. So Search Instance can read it and like, make your site accessible. The matte one said use WordPress. I think Seth, Seth bot talked about, uh, you know, have a unique story.
(16:57) You know, tell your, what’s your purple cow, what’s your like, sort of thing that’s like unique to the world. People will beat a path to your door. And then the Tim one was like all about like optimization and hacking. Like here’s how you test out different headlines. It was pretty cool to see like different sort of avatars of wisdom and like imagine, gosh, if I was an entrepreneur starting today, you know, 19 year old Matt starting WordPress, having access 24 7 to a conversational dialectic of, you
(17:30) know, these bots train on people’s data. It’s pretty amazing and cool. And that’s kind of what Chat GPT is. It’s red. All of it’s, by the way, it’s already consumed. All of these things I just mentioned. It’s just not kind of tuned speak, is it? But you can ask it to, you could say, Hey, talk to me.
(17:45) It’s actually a, a fun prompt engineering hack is to actually say like, okay, pretend you’re a council of six people. You’re a Richard Fynman Einstein, Seth Godin, Matt Mullenweg, but you know, pick your six people. I’m, I’m facing this problem. Uh, write a script where they debate this problem I’m facing.
(18:06) It’s a very fun thing to do with these lms, and you get sort of the wisdom of like, here’s what Richard Fineman would say. Here’s what Einstein would say. Here’s what Steve Jobs would say. Like, you can, what a gift, you know? And also what a amazing thing. Amazing rewards. Anyone who’s been blogging and publishing now, all of their thoughts and words, everything in their neural network can now be accessed in a different way.
(18:34) In terms of how you think it might affect, I guess, the broader scope of websites and the, the search experience that we’re gonna, what we’re starting to see with things like browsers starting to show AI or AI as a search interface, do you think that’s gonna have impact on how the sort of search and content market works going forward? And how does that affect WordPress going forward as well, I guess? People still care about brands, they still care about other people.
(19:04) We still live in a world that’s embodied. So like I don’t think these things go away or become less important. Yeah. I’m not sure how that all plays out. Yeah, like and definitely I, hopefully these models can incorporate a way, like we figure out a way to fractionize the economics or the subscriptions.
(19:24) So like, you know, imagine that a I’m asking Chat GPT to. tell me what Seth Godin would say. Maybe it can like put a little cryptocurrency to Seth Godin, you know, I deserve that. You know, and like, uh, or whatever that value is that I’m paying is now some portion of that’s going back to, uh, being fractionalized to the creators or what it drew upon to, uh, answer that question.
(19:46) And, uh, with our current systems around like payment systems and other things, that’s hard. I think it’s not possible. You can see it in the music industry around licensing rights. Mm-hmm. Who wrote the song, who performed it? What’s the recording rights? There’s all performance rights. The merchandise rights as we’ve kind of created legal systems and everything’s to fractionalize and sort of chop up various parts of intellectual property and say how things should be rewarded or not.
(20:14) And that’s gonna need to evolve much in the same way that like. You know, when you could only get music from live musicians and then it could be on radio and then it could be pre-recorded, and then it could be streamed digitally. Like, you know, we had to evolve the business models and all those sorts of things.
(20:31) Everyone wants music, everyone wants musicians to get paid. Yeah. So, but at various points in that journey, sometimes the actual people making the music had more power. Sometimes they had less power. Sometimes there was a lot of middlemen taking all the value. And the actual musicians weren’t getting a lot.
(20:47) So again, I want all the tools I contribute to, to give more autonomy and freedom to the creators. In terms of how you organize internally, do you think that AI’s going to, because of the speed that it’s gonna develop, do you think that organizational structures, so if you look at automatic or the way that WordPress.
(21:08) Open source currently works, do you think those are gonna need to change, or do you think those are ready for the pace of innovation that’s coming our way? Hmm. I mean, every organizational structure is just a series of trade-offs, and you’re choosing certain trade-offs with how you. Organize yourself.
(21:28) You know, whether it’s a flat structure, whether you have teams in hierarchy, you’re functionally organized or divisionally organized or, so I think that the most important impact is gonna be at the individual level. So individuals should all be thinking about how they can use AI to augment their productivity to make them.
(21:49) Better. Whether that’s through learning or through enhancing their work output or increasing their productivity, man, how to use these new tools. Just like we learned how to type at some point, and we learned how to use computers, like, gosh, how much did that unlock? How to use spreadsheets. And then for organizations, you know, people are still people.
(22:06) So I think there’s, end of the day, communication is important, trust is important, integrity is important. Those don’t change. Because of these new tools. And so I don’t know if institutions definitely need, do, need to evolve, and many of our institutions are ossified in the way they work. You know, they do something because that’s how it, it worked before and they were successful.
(22:29) Actually, success is the most dangerous thing because it makes it harder to know when it’s time to change, take a different approach. Uh, but. You know, I, I, I remain optimistic. You know, either, either you adapt or you’re replaced by something that adapted. So, a huge thank you to Matt for his time.
(22:46) I thought it was a really fascinating discussion that went into lots of really, really interesting areas around WordPress and Ai. The key takeaway for me was I. Just how optimistic he is that these new tools are gonna give us all sorts of new creative freedoms. I am currently lining up some other videos about AI with some other thought leaders in this space, so subscribe if you want to keep track of those.
(23:08) And if you like this video, if you can hit the like button down below now, it would be amazing because it really, really, really, really does help spread the word of the video. Video, video, video. And every time you do hit that luck button. Our cats get a little treat. Thank you again for watching. Keep well, and I’ll see you soon.
(23:35) Bye for now.