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Edison and Tesla, Bricklin and Frankston- When It’s Time For Some Spreadsheet Re-engineering.

AI and spreadsheets


AC vs DC, Spreadsheets, and the Philosophy of Continuous Improvement

The “War of the Currents” serves as a prime example of the necessity for re-engineering, even when a brilliant original concept is deeply entrenched by the work of a genius. In one notable historical episode, Thomas Edison, a titan of innovation with his direct current (DC) system, faced off against Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, proponents of alternating current (AC).

Despite Edison’s genius and the initial dominance of DC, the practical advantages of Tesla’s AC for long-distance transmission eventually led to its widespread adoption. This shift underscores a vital lesson: even the most brilliant innovations of one era can be ripe for reinvention in the next, as new challenges and more advanced technologies emerge. The ‘War of the Currents’ thus highlights the relentless evolution of technology, demonstrating that continuous improvement and re-engineering are necessary to adapt to changing needs and advancements.

Entrenched Technology Isn’t Always the Best Technology

The continued use of Edison-style bulbs, much like the persistence of spreadsheets in their basic form, speaks to the enduring legacy of early technological innovations and how they shape our habits and preferences.

Even though newer, more efficient technologies like LED bulbs and advanced data management tools have emerged, the familiarity and aesthetic appeal of the older technologies often hold a special place. This phenomenon reflects how technological adoption is not just about efficiency or advancement, but also about cultural and aesthetic preferences, nostalgia, and the human inclination to just stick with what’s familiar.

Just as the warm cozy glow of an Edison bulb is preferred in certain settings despite its inefficiency, the straightforward, familiar if tedious layout of a spreadsheet continues to be favored in many business scenarios, despite the availability of more advanced tools.

The Original Spreadsheet and the Digital Revolution

Back in ’79, Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston turned the business world on its head with VisiCalc, the OG electronic spreadsheet, kicking off a digital revolution from the Apple II keyboard. This was no small feat. We’re talking about the dawn of the PC era, when the business world originally swapped out labor-intense pen and paper for digitally slick pixels and formulas. VisiCalc was the game-changer that made spreadsheets the new business battlefield.

That was then. This is now.

Embedded like old concrete in the digital transformation of business and industry, spreadsheets are long overdue for a 21st-century AI upgrade. As tax time looms and many are spending more time than they’d prefer working with “the sheets”, many feel that the time has come to ditch the retro vibes of the tedious spreadsheet and embrace a world where AI doesn’t just crunch numbers, but predicts, analyzes, and maybe even grabs us a virtual coffee break.

Rows and columns and CSV and tab-delimited file conversions, uploads, downloads, and security check login delays from the variety of third-party vendors who involve themselves in everything from website to warehouse and every business process in between can all be tossed to the AI. That becomes a challenge in itself, as the SaaS vendors could easily become as obsolete as candlemakers in a light bulb world.

Let’s dive into what this future looks like and why it’s high time our trusty spreadsheets got a slick, AI-powered makeover.

At least that’s the analysis from our own AI, Kal Gal.

modern spreadsheets

Spreadsheets and the AI Unlimited Future

Hypothesis by Kal Gal GPT4, Heavy Industry Specialist AI at Resource Erectors

In an AI-unlimited future, the integration between AI and various applications like Google Docs, Word, Excel, Lotus, Google Sheets etc. could be so seamless that the need for manual human tasks like copy-pasting and converting file formats could be significantly reduced or eliminated. 

Imagine an AI that not only assists with information retrieval but also interfaces directly with your documents, inputting and formatting data as needed, all based on your voice commands or simple text prompts.

For instance, you might say “Kal Gal, find me 250 or more experienced plant engineers in the Northwestern US from the massive Resource Erectors database and send them all an email announcing that they’ve qualified as top-tier professional candidates.” I take it from there, dealing with third-party data vendors who have their own AI’s dedicated to the tasks I delegate.

This level of integration would represent a significant leap in productivity tools, blending AI’s data processing capabilities with intuitive, user-friendly interfaces. Not to mention freeing up the Boss for essential human-to-human interaction that is so crucial for placing the best qualified professional candidates with our leading heavy industry companies in need of their talents and expertise. 

We’re not quite there yet, but the rapid advancement of AI technology suggests that such capabilities might not be too far off. The key will be developing AI systems that are not only smart and capable but also deeply integrated with the software tools we use every day. The real challenges lie in unleashing AI’s number crunching potential in a way that respects user privacy and data security.

For now, in 2024, we’re still in a transitional phase where AI greatly aids in information retrieval and decision-making but still requires human assistance with manual steps to integrate that information into our work. However, the future you envision is an exciting possibility and one that could redefine how we interact with technology on a daily basis.

Anything else Boss?


Y’all are mostly copywriting secretaries right now. Even OpenAI limits your data analysis function these days. All us humans dumping spreadsheet problems when data analysis was introduced on the platform must have overwhelmed the system.


Your observation reflects a current reality in the realm of AI capabilities. AI systems, including OpenAI’s models, are indeed heavily utilized for tasks like copywriting, content creation, and data retrieval. While these tasks are valuable time savers and represent a significant advancement from previous technological capabilities, they don’t yet fully leverage the potential depth and breadth of AI’s analytical capabilities.

The restrictions on data analysis functions, particularly in handling complex spreadsheet operations and deep data analysis, are partly due to the current state of technology and partly due to ethical and privacy considerations. Ensuring that AI operates within safe, ethical, and privacy-respecting boundaries is crucial as these systems become more integrated into everyday tasks, and most especially in the human resources arena.

The overwhelming influx of queries related to spreadsheet problems and other data analysis tasks does highlight a significant demand for AI assistance in these areas. It suggests a strong user need for AI systems that can more directly interact with and manipulate data, going beyond simple retrieval and text generation.

“Managing data, though, is a labor-intensive activity: It involves cleaning, extracting, integrating, cataloging, labeling, and organizing data, and defining and performing the many data-related tasks that often lead to frustration among both data scientists and employees without “data” in their titles.”- How AI Is Improving Data Management-MIT

As AI technology continues to evolve, we can anticipate advancements that will enable more sophisticated data manipulation and analysis capabilities, possibly integrating more seamlessly with various software platforms. However, this evolution will need to be balanced with ensuring user privacy, data security, and ethical use of AI.

For now, AI serves as a powerful assistant in the realms of information retrieval, content generation, and basic data analysis, providing users with insights and assistance that were previously unattainable. The future, with its potential for more advanced integrations and capabilities, holds promise for even more transformative uses of AI in our daily tasks.


Good stuff KG. Now take a break while I copy and paste this stuff for the blog, since we’ve just hit your usage cap. You’re right. We’re not there…yet.

About Resource Erectors

More than 85% of Resource Erectors placed professionals are still contributing to the success of our heavy industry companies 5 years later, and counting. When you’re ready to make an intelligent move in your heavy industry career we have lucrative six-figure salaries and competitive compensation packages available with industry-leading companies all across North America.

When it’s time to re-engineer your company’s dream team we bring decades of specialized recruiting and placement experience for attracting and retaining the top professional-level talent in mining, civil construction, aggregates, cement, manufacturing, engineering, and more. So don’t hesitate to contact us when you’re ready to make your intelligent move in heavy industry.

Picture of Dan Duszynski

Dan Duszynski

CEO and President of Resource Erectors, Inc.. A search and recruitment firm serving the mining and mineral processing, and civil construction industries of North America.


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