What Will People Do?

There is an increasingly large amount of digital ink being spilled on how AI is going to put more and more people out of work. There’s this handy chart, for example:

(Click on image to enlarge)

One of the most important themes of Solid State, my first novel, is humanity’s struggle with what it should do with itself in the face of technology which is increasingly capable of sidelining men and women from traditional jobs.

I think about work a lot. I always have. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I am drawn to work. I’ve always preferred it to school, and I’ve certainly always preferred it to weekends and holidays. I am fortunate in that, for most of my life, work is available to me which I find engaging and interesting. I cannot imagine dragging myself out of bed to go to a job that I hate just to pay the bills, although I realize plenty of people have done that, both now and in the before-time.

There are a couple of ideas that get tossed around when this topic comes up which really get under my skin. The first one is that, with all the spiffy new AI tools coming out, individuals who otherwise didn’t have the skills to make websites and mobile apps can, gosh darn it, now make websites and mobile apps.

Let me tell you something as a person who has been, in one form or another,. in the content generation business since 1982. The last thing the world needs from anyone, especially those who otherwise lack the skills to create them, are more websites and mobile apps. The bell curve of talent is unchanging, and just because people are able to crank out………stuff……….doesn’t mean there’s a soul on the planet who is going to care (much less pay for it).

The other idea, which is a cousin of the first irritant, is that, with humanity unshackled from the drudgery of the kinds of jobs mentioned at the top of this post, we will all be free to be creators. We can make music, write poetry, create plays, write novels. Let the machines do the dull work! The human race is going to become a fount of creative expression!

Allow me to direct you toward Sturgeon’s Law, which, in my opinion, should be side-by-side with the King James Bible with respect to crucial life knowledge. In graphical form, it states the following truth:

(Click on image to enlarge)

Former fast-food workers ain’t gonna be crankin’ out new novels, thought-provoking plays, or witty editorials. They’re going to be sitting on their asses watching Netflix and/or getting high. Sorry to say, but they were flipping burgers for a reason, ya know.

As someone who has spent his life at the leading edge of technology, I’m far less fearful of this entire topic than most folks, because I think technology is more much brokenvulnerable, and flimsy than people care to admit. Yes, in fits and starts, we’re going to move our way toward more and more automation, but I don’t think it’s going to happen nearly as fast as people fear.

I think the more immediate job-related topic is younger workers to realize, very painfully, that the world doesn’t owe them a quarter million dollar job right out of college, and the only obligation on their part is not just to enjoy the free food and massages in the office. Elon, God bless him, is leading the way with his 76% slashing of Twitter’s “work” force, but I think there are hundreds of thousands of more jobs that are going to get blown up for the exact same reasons, none of which have anything to do with artificial intelligence.

Do what you love, and if you’re blessed, the money will follow.

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