When you talk with energetic British entrepreneur John Lee, it’s hard to imagine that, one day, there might be two of him. That’s because the self-made millionaire and global public speaker is in the midst of cloning himself.
Yes, you read that correctly. There might not be an actual double in the works, but Lee is currently using AI technology to gather data from thousands of hours from his own presentations to clone his voice and—perhaps, eventually—his image. The immediate goal is for generative AI to be able to answer questions in Lee’s own voice using context and expertise from his previous speaking engagements.
Entrepreneur John Lee believes AI is the future
With a growing team and upward of 6 million social media followers as of press time, he says he can’t possibly respond to every single question or request for one-on-one coaching. He’s betting on AI to help him reach more people individually and maybe allow him to appear virtually, like a hologram, at events one day.
“One of the challenges I face in my job is that I have to fly around the world and speak in front of people, but there’s only one of me,” Lee says. “I can only be in one place at one time.” With an AI avatar based on a 3D scan, “now I’m in a position where I can choose to be there, or I can have my AI talk for me.”
Even this AI pioneer admits concerns about security, rights, ethical issues and more. But he advocates embracing technology’s potential to enhance human life. He also puts his money where his mouth is, investing in AI companies. “This is already happening. We can choose to resist it or work with it.”
In the Q&A below, John Lee dishes on where he’s been, where he’s going and how he expects AI will help him get there. Then, learn the top five user-friendly AI tools Lee recommends to boost your business.
Q&A with John Lee
SUCCESS: This sounds like the perfect combination of your background innovating and eschewing the traditional career path, and your background in animation. Is that right?
John Lee: Yes, because I’m always thinking about what are some of the best ways right now to do things quicker, faster and easier.
So, for you, AI is about efficiency and being in more places at more times, extending your work?
JL: And not only that, but it’s also the legacy when I’m not here… Humans, we are born, we enjoy life, and then we leave the earth. But what if a part of you is left behind? What if you’ve got a husband and wife and one person passes away, but we can recreate that person? What if someone’s got dementia but could now speak to their own selves… They’ve created skeletal structures for robots. You’ve got the film industry that can create lifelike skin, generative skin that can basically be pieced together. Now, the only thing missing is the brain. But guess where the brain comes from? Generative AI. So, now, you can live forever.
Is that part of what you’re talking about with legacy? Are you hoping to live forever?
JL: The reason why we don’t live forever is because the next generation needs to evolve from our mistakes. That’s why humans don’t live forever. Because, if we did, you know you would never be able to grow as fast. Whereas, if you have a machine [that] is you but can learn 10 times or 1,000 times faster than you, then what is being alive? It gets quite deep when you start questioning this stuff. Is this what being human is? [grabs wrist] Or is this what being human is? [points to head] It’s your consciousness that stays behind. So, imagine we take our consciousness, and we can put that into anything. I think that is, for me, to leave something behind for the next generations to learn from.
Who are your mentors in the field of AI?
JL: I’m very fortunate that I get to speak all around the world on this topic, just being in that environment of hearing people, listening to people, friends of mine who we talk about these topics together. I’ve been very blessed because AI is very new…. I’m still learning a lot of stuff. I listen to podcasts. I speak at events. I do searches for things… A lot of the people that I’m learning from are actually the people I’m investing in. That’s how I get firsthand knowledge.
You are currently paid to mentor, speak about and answer the questions that AI is going to be able to handle in the future. Are you concerned about losing income?
JL: Here’s the thing: You need to disrupt yourself. If you don’t disrupt yourself, someone else will. You’re right, my consulting fee is very high, and by doing this I’ve practically commoditized myself. Why would I want to do that? Well, instead of spending an hour with somebody and charging them $5,000, I can now train a million people around the world for maybe a dollar an hour. So, now, it’s a matter of scale. Scalability factor is where AI is at. If people are not embarking on that journey, then they’re definitely missing an opportunity.
How would you describe your biggest hopes or goals for the future?
JL: My goals and hopes for the future are that humanity accepts the inevitable and uses it to evolve even further. For example, humans have the intelligence to be able to fly someone from one end of the world to the other. But what they haven’t figured out is how to do that without destroying the world. That’s an example. But with technology, it’ll take that base and say, “You’re doing it this way, but why do you do it this way?” And it will see things that we won’t have seen because our brains are, in essence, very primitive compared to AI.
You seem to have an optimist’s view of AI.
JL: It goes back to the superhero movies: “With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s not about what is out there or not out there. The question is intent. What is the intent?
Do you trust AI more than humans to do the right thing?
JL: That’s a tough question to answer without proper contextualization, without proper securities. Here’s the issue: When you solve a problem, you inherently create another problem. So, now, we’ve got a superhuman artificial intelligence, and now the problem is, how do you control it? That’s why we say something like, “New level, new devil.” We are at the brink of this exponential growth into something I think is pretty incredible, that will help more people, solve a lot of the world issues happening right now that we humans can’t really seem to solve. We need a different intelligence—a higher intelligence to teach us—so we can evolve.
5 AI tools recommended by John Lee
- ChatGPT: This AI-powered model generates human-like text using context clues and prior conversations. Lee confirms its capabilities. “I spent 20 years training how to do copywriting, and yet a piece of AI can rewrite the whole thing in 10 seconds, 10 times better than I can.”
- Midjourney: A generative AI tool that creates images from text prompts. “Midjourney can help people design things,” like logos. Together with ChatGPT, these are “two of the most popular” tools commonly used today.
- Synthesia: This platform creates videos from text. One possible use is to relieve those with stage fright from having to speak publicly. “Synthesia can give you an AI avatar and basically present for you.”
- HeyGen: Another AI video creator, it can 3D scan you in, put your voice on top and “literally speak like you.” Lee describes the founder doing a sample presentation using a generated version of himself, “and people could not tell that it wasn’t him.”
- Hostinger: “Most people don’t know how to code,” so this platform lets AI create a website for you, based on minimal prompts and in a matter of minutes. “What used to take three to six months and thousands of dollars to create can now be created in the click of a few buttons.”
AI or human?
What do you think: Was the following short bio written by SUCCESS’s human author or by ChatGPT?
John Lee’s story is one of determination, hard work, and a strong desire to create a better life for himself and others. Born to Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong, John Lee’s upbringing in Manchester was influenced by the values of his parents, who instilled in him the importance of education and diligence. From a young age, John Lee exhibited an entrepreneurial spirit. He was drawn to the idea of financial success and independence, driven by his desire to uplift his family’s circumstances and make a positive impact. Throughout his teenage years, he sought out various opportunities to learn about business and investments.
By the time John Lee reached his early twenties, he had already dabbled in a few business ventures, testing his ideas and learning valuable lessons along the way. His determination and willingness to take risks eventually paid off when, at the age of 27, he achieved the milestone of becoming a millionaire. This initial success marked a turning point in his life and gave him the platform to pursue his passion for helping others achieve financial prosperity. Recognizing the power of his own journey, John Lee shifted his focus toward educating and mentoring individuals who were interested in wealth creation and management. Drawing from his personal experiences, he began to share his insights through seminars, workshops, books, and online resources. His unique background as the son of immigrants resonated with many, as he demonstrated that anyone, regardless of their beginnings, could attain financial success through dedication and strategic planning.
This was written by ChatGPT based on the following 30-word prompt: “biography John Lee son of Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong grew up in Manchester made his first million by age 27 now helps others learn about wealth creation and management.”
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photography by Ann Landstrom.
Jennifer Green has been writing about the entertainment industry for more than two decades, and her work (archived at filmsfromafar.com) has appeared in a variety of international publications and websites. She splits her time between the US and Spain, and when she's not teaching or spending time with her family, she can be found in front of a movie screen.