April 4, 2024

From Rice Grains to Rocket Ships: The Exponential Future of LLMs

While chatbots, customer support agents, and document processing are already evident applications, LLMs promise to one day perform tasks requiring social and emotional reasoning, further expanding their utility.

8 min read

Meet our Editor-in-chief

Paul Estes

For 20 years, Paul struggled to balance his home life with fast-moving leadership roles at Dell, Amazon, and Microsoft, where he led a team of progressive HR, procurement, and legal trailblazers to launch Microsoft’s Gig Economy freelance program

Gig Economy
  • Exponential growth in Large Language Models (LLMs) is poised to revolutionize various industries, with growth exceeding 574,368% over recent years.

  • As LLMs rapidly develop capabilities, businesses can find use cases in various fields, helping streamline processes and increase profits.

  • For companies with resource constraints, a targeted LLM development approach will help to reduce model size by 700x while maintaining performance quality.

John Lucas

GenAI Director / Principal Machine Learning Architect

Centuries ago, a king granted the inventor of the chessboard any wish they could think of. Their wish seemed straightforward: a grain of rice for the first square of the board, two for the second, four for the third, and so on. While the king initially deemed the wish simplistic, he was soon overwhelmed as exponential doublings grew to over 18 million trillion grains of rice.

The earliest uses of this story date back to the 13th century, but its moral is much more pressing in the age of large language models (LLMs). Technology may be slow to get started, but once we begin to near the middle of the chessboard, progress becomes so unfathomably quick that we, too, may be shocked at the scale of change.

Let’s take the last few years as an example. In 2019, the largest LLM had parameters of 0.09 billion. This figure increased to 17.2 billion in 2020 before exploding to 540 billion in 2022. Over a few years, a tiny figure grew exponentially, achieving a 574,368% increase

Parameters serve as the fundamental components of LLMs. As LLMs broaden their scope and incorporate more parameters, their complexity escalates, enabling them to tackle increasingly intricate tasks. A surge of 574,368% in an LLM's parameters signifies a substantial enhancement in the model's capability to address a wide array of functions efficiently.

If the US National Bureau of Economic Research believes that LLMs can increase productivity by 34% in their current state, what will happen when we reach the second half of the chessboard? 

What will happen when we reach the 64th square?


LLMs in Action: Demystifying AI Tools

Imagine a technology capable of transcribing audio files, summarizing complex documents, or generating personalized marketing content in seconds. Large language models (LLMs) excel in these tasks, showcasing their prowess in automating transcription services, facilitating document analysis, and enhancing content creation processes.

LLMs are artificial intelligence systems that utilize machine learning to accurately complete tasks based on vast training data sets. These models understand the correct response to various questions by processing this data through neural networks.

Pre-trained models, exemplified by platforms like OpenAI's GPT-3, can fine-tune their performance to accomplish tasks precisely, including summarizing information, generating text, answering questions, and classifying data. 

For instance, GPT-3 can undergo further training on specialized datasets to excel in tasks such as summarizing legal documents, generating medical reports, answering technical queries, and categorizing customer feedback. Large language models offer streamlined solutions across diverse operational challenges in industries heavily reliant on data.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini compellingly illustrate LLMs in action. These tools spearhead the expansion of LLMs and demonstrate their most powerful capabilities.

Users can input their queries directly into the chatbot instead of conducting searches and sifting through websites for answers. ChatGPT and Bard then utilize their LLMs to produce a coherent and concise explanation that pulls from available data in their repositories.

Although ChatGPT and Bard are leading the charge, they are far from the only LLM chatbots currently on the market. There are now 58 models displaying different capabilities, success rates, and specific skills ranging from research purposes to chatbot model development.

Source: Ranking Available LLMs with an ELO system.

As we progress across the chessboard, new innovative possibilities continue to emerge. 

Navigating the Digital Frontier: Use Cases of LLMs for Enhanced Productivity

The exponential growth of LLMs is facilitating the emergence of new use cases daily, transforming the digital landscape of AI and LLMs significantly within a mere year or even six months.

Here are some notable LLM use cases already observed across various industries:

  • Optimizing Intranets: LLMs can swiftly process millions of internal business documents, creating a searchable repository of information. IBM predicts that internal chatbots will enhance employee onboarding by automating 80% of company-related inquiries and reducing customer support costs by 30%
  • Enhancing Customer Satisfaction: Research involving over 5,000 customer support agents demonstrates that LLMs can boost the number of resolved customer cases per hour by up to 14%. McKinsey estimates that businesses leveraging LLMs in customer support could achieve productivity gains ranging from 30% to 45%.
  • Streamlining Document Processing: Bloomberg has introduced an LLM capable of analyzing financial reports and summarizing their contents, guiding analysts to relevant sections of earnings call transcriptions. This Natural Language Processing (NLP) workflow surpasses previous models' performance by nearly 50% in some instances, enhancing the efficiency of financial reporting and documentation.

These case studies represent a small handful of AI tools' future potential. According to McKinsey research, the exponential progression of LLMs will unlock a wide variety of technical capabilities over the coming years.


While chatbots, customer support agents, and document processing are already evident applications, LLMs promise to one day perform tasks requiring social and emotional reasoning, further expanding their utility.

The Chessboard of Innovation: Balancing Exponential Expansion and Resource Constraints in LLM Adoption.

The exponential growth of LLMs presents new opportunities, but with expansion comes heightened resource demands. Cloud technologies provide the necessary storage and computing power to accommodate this growth, albeit at a cost that may be prohibitive for some companies. 

While exponential growth is within reach for certain businesses able to afford it, it's not a priority or feasible asset for many others. Realistic resource and economic constraints shape the trajectory of LLM development, leading to diverging pathways for their evolution.

 Amazon’s Vision for LLMs and the Future of Customer Experience

As we approach the latter stages of the chessboard, each expansion presents a daunting prospect of requiring substantial financial investments and resources, which may be beyond the means of many companies. This path involves significant processing costs, managing extensive datasets, and a projected 26.5% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) in global AI spending over the next few years.

Several global tech enterprises are deploying funding to speed up innovation. In a recent letter to shareholders, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy stated:

“We have been working on our own LLMs for a while now, and believe it will transform and improve virtually every customer experience, and will continue to invest substantially in these models across all of our consumer, seller, brand, and creator experiences.”

With unlimited cloud resources, Amazon is a leading contender pursuing exponential growth. While they have already introduced a range of AI tools, this marks the beginning of their journey. 

However, rather than solely relying on unlimited funding, companies can embrace alternative strategies for progress. Retrieval augmented generation (RAG) offers a viable solution. Instead of pouring vast sums into infrastructure and resources, companies can leverage RAG to enhance their AI capabilities without limitless financial backing. 

RAG, or retrieval augmented generation, is an innovative method to address the constraints of large language models (LLMs). It integrates an information retrieval component with a text generation model, enabling LLMs to access precise and up-to-date information from specific external knowledge sources. RAG facilitates the development of domain-specific LLMs that are fine-tuned to specific use cases.

This approach allows businesses to:

  • Significantly reduce time to market for proprietary LLMs.
  • Train on proprietary data to increase accuracy.
  • Create powerful LLM applications that have advanced contextual knowledge.
  • Remain relevant to specific, evolving business contexts.

While global tech giants like Amazon are investing heavily in their own LLMs, smaller companies can follow suit by adopting RAG to achieve transformative outcomes in customer experiences and operational efficiency. By harnessing RAG, companies can navigate the competitive landscape of AI innovation without being hindered by resource constraints. 

Key Takeaway: Pursuing exponential growth promises innovation yet remains within reach only for small businesses with near-unlimited resources.

From Jack of All Trades to Master of One: Tailoring LLMs for Optimal Performance in Every Role

For companies lacking endless resources, the advancements in LLMs over the coming years will be within reach. Instead, as pioneers like Amazon lead with innovations, a more focused development strategy is likely to gain traction.

Recent research has highlighted the significant data sets and computing resources required to establish and utilize effective LLMs, proposing an alternative approach. Rather than aiming for LLMs capable of tackling every task, researchers have found that a gradual approach can shrink the size of an LLM by approximately 700 times while maintaining performance quality. 


This strategy involves tailoring LLMs to specific tasks. Instead of being a Jack of All Trades, each LLM becomes a Master of One. 

By focusing on particular tasks, researchers can simplify the model further, reducing its size and diminishing the need for extensive training data. In practical terms, businesses could develop smaller, purpose-built LLMs tailored to specific use cases within their operations. 

Rather than relying on a single company-wide LLM, individual departments or job roles could have customized LLMs, offering a resource-efficient means of optimization. 

Key Takeaway: A targeted, step-by-step approach will yield purpose-built LLMs tailored to specific business needs. While less expansive, these specialized models will fulfill targeted roles within businesses, maximizing cost-effectiveness.

Conclusion: Choosing Strategic Paths in the Exponential Growth of LLMs

As we journey deeper into the exponential growth of LLMs, the trajectory of innovation unveils monumental technologies on the horizon. Even recent AI advancements that have captivated the world are but a fraction of what's achievable. 

However, amidst this surge of exponential growth, strategic considerations come to the forefront. The choice between exponential expansion and targeted development highlights the divergent paths that businesses must navigate in embracing LLM development. While industry giants like Amazon will surge with nearly limitless resources, others are positioned to capitalize on a more focused, purpose-built approach. 

Each step forward on the chessboard tells a straightforward story: while LLMs experience exponential growth, success with this technology may not hinge on being at the forefront of the charge but on tactically applying AI to businesses.

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