AI Pessimism

There has been a lot written about AI lately. Particularly large language models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and GPT-4. Yet despite my best efforts, I find myself in a constant state of pessimism about LLMs and generative AIs and what they mean for humanity.

This past weekend on Twitter I came across one post stating “people once had to be convinced of the usefulness of electricity, too” and I can’t help but think just how poorly that translates to today’s situation with the looming AI takeover of many (most?) knowledge worker jobs. When electricity was introduced, whose jobs were immediately threatened? Lamplighters…and…well, that’s about it I guess.

And how many new types of jobs were possible because of electricity? Thousands. Millions. Countless.

In stark contrast, so much of the online conversation about AI has been focused on who will lose their jobs. What careers are basically dead. Photography, illustration, copywriting, screenwriting, customer service, accounting, teaching, programming. The list goes on and on - even the role of CEO isn’t safe (see: HustleGPT). The two themes I see online are that 1) companies will save so much money by not having to hire people to write things or draw things any more and 2) people that did these things are all S.O.L.

I can’t imagine that the salesmen of early electrical companies in the world focused on just how many people would lose their jobs as they pushed the technology onto people. So my question is, when will we start learning what new jobs and opportunities AI will unlock for us? Why am I having such a hard time seeing a bright future?

It’s obvious that AI can be an incredibly useful tool that is going to remove a lot of menial work. But I cannot help but be scared that most companies, with short sighted visions that seek to only make shareholders happy from one financial quarter to the next, will simply rejoice at this cost cutting opportunity without truly realizing the potential of what lies before us.

I know there has to be a wave of new opportunities emerging for us knowledge workers soon to be deemed too expensive to continue to employ.

When do these new opportunities become apparent? The valley of despair is deep and dark, and I miss seeing the light of opportunity.

P.S. I asked ChatGPT about this topic after I had already written this blog post, and this is what it had to say. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, as they say.

Who lost their jobs when electricity was popularized in the late 1800s?

The widespread adoption of electricity in the late 1800s led to significant changes in the labor market, particularly in industries that were dependent on steam or water power. Jobs that involved manual labor, such as stokers who fed fuel to steam engines, were some of the first to be affected. Additionally, workers in the gas lighting industry, who had been employed to light streets and buildings with gas lamps, also saw their jobs disappear as electric lighting became more prevalent.

Other jobs that were affected by the adoption of electricity included factory workers who operated machinery powered by steam or water, as electric-powered machines replaced older ones. However, it’s worth noting that while some jobs were lost, many new jobs were also created in industries related to electricity production, distribution, and maintenance. Overall, the transition to electricity led to significant changes in the labor market, but it also paved the way for new technologies and industries that created new jobs and economic opportunities.

Who will lose their jobs because of AI?

The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs is a complex and often debated topic, and there is no simple answer to who will lose their jobs because of AI.

While AI has the potential to automate many tasks and jobs that are currently done by humans, it also has the potential to create new jobs and industries. In general, jobs that involve routine and repetitive tasks are more likely to be automated by AI, while jobs that require creativity, critical thinking, and human interaction are less likely to be affected.

Some examples of jobs that could be impacted by AI in the future include:

  • Jobs in manufacturing, where robots and automated systems can perform repetitive tasks more efficiently and accurately than humans.
  • Jobs in transportation, where autonomous vehicles and drones could replace human drivers and pilots.
  • Jobs in customer service, where chatbots and other AI-powered systems could handle simple customer inquiries and support.
  • Jobs in finance and accounting, where AI can perform tasks such as data entry, fraud detection, and financial analysis.
  • Jobs in healthcare, where AI can assist with tasks such as medical diagnosis, drug discovery, and patient monitoring.

However, it’s important to note that the impact of AI on jobs will depend on many factors, including the specific technologies developed, the pace of adoption, and the ability of workers to adapt to changing job requirements. It’s also worth noting that while some jobs may be automated, new jobs and industries may emerge as a result of advances in AI and related technologies.

Tags: technology AI

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