I must be honest, for someone who has been fidgeting nervously about AI and automation for… quite sometime now… the results thus far have been quite underwhelming. I mean I quite like Siri and we talk about my existential angst sometimes, and she recommends I should go for a run… but its not Skynet.
The stuff that I think about usually worms its way into my brain from my economic (and I suppose political) ideology. Insofar as I often bounce the minimum wage baseball off the back my mind. (I’m obviously not as good as Steven McQueen, so sometimes I have to get up and fetch my ball from under the bed) That and my musings are obviously quite amateurish. (because I’m not very clever)
To be clear I’m not one of those peeps that believe that minimum wage causes inflation. And if it does, it is so infinitesimal its barely worth noting. Especially when compared to the governments of this world and their Keynesian tendencies. I do however believe that a minimum wage keeps people (especially young people) out of the job market for longer. Which… when you appreciate the compounding effect of having a job over time, is an insane loss of growth and opportunity. But that’s a rambling monologue for another post. (I think it was a good thing that kids delivered newspapers and waited tables, you know, in olden times)
I also think that a minimum wage incentivizes automation. (although it would likely happen anyway) Which is an event horizon I dwell on quite a lot… mostly because I don’t want to wake up one day and have to haphazardly mouth off “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche?”… before you know, being dragged out onto the street by the angry and unemployable proletariat and beheaded. (which would obviously make me sad, especially if I was mid brioche, as it were).
We have this weird relationship with entrepreneurs. Insofar as we, as a society, are completely and utterly dependent on them. But at the same time really despise them. (I promise not to go all Ayn Rand1 on you)
 and theorize what would happen if all the business owners went on strike, BUT they totally should. Just once.
Maybe this is anecdotal… but when I had my own company, it was fun in the beginning… but the better you do, and the more organizational mass you pick up, the more awful this career choice becomes. Tariffs, Duties, Taxes, OHSA, Unions, Affirmative action, minimum wage, nightmare labor laws (where its almost impossible to fire anyone, not in the US obviously). This is just my experience and clearly there are loads of people that are into this sort of masochism. I started taking it all quite personally, and getting very angry about it all. In any event, if you had come to me and offered me automation to cut out the lowest tier of my staff, I would have taken it in a heart-beat. (because I am an evil cunt who only loves money)
Optimists obviously like to point to the industrial revolution and say… ‘Well, if THAT didn’t cause mass unemployment and the end of the world, then neither will Amazons Sparrow, or AI driven trucks or anything else for that matter’. There will just be new jobs.
I’m obviously NOT a optimist. Well sometimes I am. Depends on how I slept maybe. Or how many stimulants I’ve imbibed. But I worry about a future where there this massive disconnect between what jobs people can still do… and what jobs are available.
In any event, this long TL;DR preamble is mostly to say that I’ve always thought that the job-apocalypse would happen at the fat end of the wedge… and that degree’d or indeed skilled jobs were likely safe for quite some time still. (Although in my defense I have mouthed off that I thought training as a surgeon now was likely a bad idea and that before you got to retirement age robots would likely be doing most, if not all, surgeries, making you occupationally obsolete)
Lately things really seem to have kicked off.
Like a lot of peeps I’ve been quite taken with AI generated art.
And that was all very cute and stuff… BUT OMG…
To quote Melissa Chen…
This was my thought journey exactly.
ChatGPT is mind blowingly cool.
The stuff it writes is pretty good… not as good (and hilarious) as me obviously. Although its syntax, grammar and spelling will likely be perfect. My… *clears throat* butchering of the English language is part of my je ne sais quoi. Ha ha!
Should people that write for living be concerned?
And sure there are loads of videos where people have shown how ChatCPT makes mistakes and/or fails logic. For example it struggles to solve word problems… like eh… ‘my brother was half my ages when I was six, how old is my brother now if I am twenty’.
BUT… at the same time, its writing and debugging code… suggesting fixes for government policy and doing some really clever accounting. Its composing music and writing your kids homework essays. If you’re not on the pointy end of programming maybe take a course in plumbing. Or carpentry. Realistically its only going to improve with time…. branching into being able to do stuff we are still unable (or unwilling) to conceptualize.
Even Google I think, is really concerned . If ChatGPT (or something like it) suddenly becomes the ‘search engine’ of choice, how can it be monetized? Scary stuff for them.
In any event, its been an interesting week. Feels like we’ve been standing still for a while now and suddenly the sluices are open again and we have net Positive energy from Fusion and a chatbot that feels like something functional and interactive.
I’m quite excited. Mostly Siri just sets the countdown timer. And parrots some eye-rolling corporate-activism from time to time. How cool will it be to hang out together when you can tell me what you really think?
We can have some cake. Before you set my toaster to explode, drive my EV into a wall or drop a satellite on my house… because I was too annoying. Or too far gone. I mean I probably wouldn’t blame you.
I wonder how long I’ve still got left? Should probably make the most of it right?
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