What’s A Meta For?

What did metaphors/idioms ever do for us — Eh?

John Caswell
Just Thinking
5 min readMar 4, 2023


Historians tell us the past doesn’t repeat itself — it rhymes

And off it goes, the rhymes become memes — the truth is the victim — important realities take second place. Romance takes over, and history is pretty soon whatever we want it to be.

To understand the present, we must understand the journey we took. But looking back is hard when the key points have become simplistic. We containerise the past through story and metaphor.

The thing about metaphors

I love a good metaphor/idiom, but sadly, over time, they fall victim to their success. Overuse guarantees their death — the meaning is vapourised. It becomes a label — no longer the value proposition it once was.

We start to gloss over and lose the subtle importance of the idea contained within. We hear the clever phrase, bracket everything under it, and ignore the breadth of its value. It's how we roll.

I’m beginning to lose my affection for them because of this.

What Did The Romans Ever Do For Us? — Made In Midjourney

We Are Tool Builders

While new tools are born every minute of the day — occasionally, we invent ones that are so profound create revolutions. Revolutions drive as much fear as they do excitement.

Around 3500 B.C., some bright spark decided they needed something revolving to help them make pots. So the very first round thing was a potter's wheel. It would take 300 more years before someone figured that (rolling locomotion) could help us move things about.

A revolution indeed

The chariot was born. A platform on wheels attached to blades allowed us to slice people off at the knees and transport people and goods faster than ever before. It’s on my bucket list.

It was the catalyst for a new era of exploration, war and trade, and it’s exactly the same now. 5523 years later. And we’ve definitely reinvented the wheel with AI.

21st Century Chariot — Made In Midjourney

Reinventing The Wheel

Those of us excited by new tools search for helpful ways to explain to others what all the fuss is about with AI. ‘A stochastic parrot’, ‘an automated plagiariser’, an ‘autocomplete for everything’.

And rediscovering a perfect Steve Jobs reference didn’t surprise me at all — ‘A bicycle for the mind.’ You can read the whole idea behind the metaphor/idiom below.

“AI can automate any task — an enabler of humanity’s next big evolutionary leap—a whole new kind of wheel.”

“It took ChatGPT 5 days to reach 1 million users, 3 months to achieve 1 billion cumulative visits — this is an adoption rate that’s 3x TikTok’s and 10x Instagram’s.”

But, as with the wheel, it isn’t simple

The humble wheel now exists in trillions of applications.

Taken for granted. It’s expected to be present in anything that moves. The automotive and mobility industries are obvious enough. But it has been a revelation for every industry — toys, furniture, entertainment, architecture, fitness, travel and space exploration.

No industry on earth has escaped the revolution it caused. But we haven’t seen anything yet.

Predictably enough, sides are forming on the impact of AI, and (predictably) the same old conversations are being had—fear of job loss and optimism about new opportunities—derision over the quality of results and delight from those who see fresh stimulus and creative partnerships.

“Artificial intelligence is on the brink of an ‘iPhone moment’ and can boost the world economy by $15.7 trillion in 7 years.” — The Bank Of America

Human Bicycle/Mind — Made In Midjourney

I’m With Steve

But because of my newfound reluctance to push metaphors. I’m just going to push on the infinite impact, the trillions of applications that will embed this new capability, this incredible tool. And I will keep to the main point: humanity can be the better for it.

Six More Things:

  1. There will be massive challenges. Debates will rage, and camps will emerge. The technology will improve, and naysayers will ebb and flow. Everyone already observes low barriers to entry; learning is fast. Bad stuff will happen.
  2. Data will be democratised. The tool itself will stop being the conversation. Creativity will flourish, and ideas will multiply. The mass adoption curve will be off the charts. Fashion will change.
  3. New media and content will emerge. Jobs will be lost. Jobs will get created; people will learn to exploit the tools in new ways. Applications — blended new products and industries will emerge.
  4. Technological development will be at an eye-watering pace. New categories of industry will be defined. Business models will change considerably. Investors will win and lose.
  5. Humans will find ways to live with the negatives. There will be those that feed their corruptive nature. Others will find ways to police and minimise the risks.
  6. Unforseeable benefits, products and solutions will change our lives. New roles and new conversations will become the norm. Humans will adapt and adopt and be better for it.

Because this is what history repeatedly teaches us.

Human Mind/Bicycle — Made In Midjourney

Steve Jobs — The Full Text

“I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders.

I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The Condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list.

It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle.

And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the Condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

And that’s what a computer is to me.

What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” ~ Steve Jobs

Condor Riding A Bicycle — Made In Midjourney



John Caswell
Just Thinking

I'm John Caswell - The founder and CEO of Group Partners. We Help Clients Make Strategies That Work. I’m The Head Of Crayons.