I have been feeling increasing anxiety about AI given the success of gpt-3, and not because of the potential of a singularity or AI foom scenario.
What I’m worried about is that AI will soon make nerds obsolete. In the current world, you can be socially awkward and weird but still find success and status through your intellectual abilities. There are many jobs available for people who can write, code, or even just memorize a lot of information (like lawyers). But it seems like we may not be too far off from AI being able to take many of these jobs over. Perhaps not the most complicated and high status ones, but the bulk of the low and mid-range complexity jobs that most nerds work in will disappear.
If AI takes over most of these information jobs, then what’s left will be physical labor and people-oriented jobs. Everyone will be either a construction worker or yoga instructor. The salespeople will be fine, meanwhile most data analysts and entry level coders and writers will be laid off as one person plus an AI can do the work of dozens of people.
Right now, you can still get some level of societal respect if you’re smart even if you lack charisma or physical ability, but that may not be true much longer.
…both physical labor and, uh, let’s call it “user interface labor” are already getting hammered by automation. That doesn’t seem likely to stop or slow down.
(A high-level salesperson dealing with high-value wares may not be replaceable by present-generation AI…GPT-3 can’t schmooze a client…but the McDonald’s cashier is getting replaced by a kiosk, and the ordinary floor salesman is getting replaced by the Amazon algorithm.)
It is true that intellectual labor may be thrown into that basket as well.
Social respect stems from economically productive labor is a mug’s game. We’ve been falling down on the job of dealing with that truth, in part because nerds – who are, de facto, responsible for that kind of philosophical work – have been doing very well economically of late. But it remains true.
The lucrative remuneration for analytical thinking of the past couple decades should be understood as a blip. Eventually it will die down, and that will suck for many people (including myself.) But you shouldn’t build your life counting on it to last.
But you shouldn’t build your life counting on it to last.
Ok, so… what should I do? This isn’t actionable advice.
Save the money you earn now instead of counting on a regular increase in pay throughout the rest of your life. Talk to lawyers you know about what their professional arc has looked like (given that they have had the same arc recently.) Vote for a strong social safety net because even if you earn 6 figures now you may need it later.
I don’t really have good advice for people. A lot of people are in very bad situations! But “I and my friends have well paying jobs and I expect this to never change” is not guaranteed to hold up.
I’m going into accounting soon, and I plan to operate under the assumption that I will be permanently laid off at some point. Here’s hoping it’s far enough in the future to give me a good chance to prepare.
(On the bright side, my *baseline* expenses are barista FIRE†, and I have several Vimes Boot Theory plans that I would only need a few good years to be able to enact. Also I have my foot in the employees-only door at a local fast-food joint, which is in a small town where automation of fast food is less economical.)
I won’t make the same mistakes my father made, thinking that because he was a programmer†† he was golden and didn’t need to do more than basic 401k deposits. (I’m gonna make *new* and *different* mistakes, which will almost certainly revolve around having less fun than I could be getting away with having. I’m pretty okay with that.)
†”barista FIRE” = the ability to cover your personal expenses on 20 minimum-wage-hours a week (the shortfall is implied to be covered by interest on your investments, but I would *have* no shortfall on 20 minimum-wage-hours/week, though it’d be a bit tight and I wouldn’t be able to support anyone else) ((okay, the lack-of-other-income is not quite true, ~half our rent is being covered by partial ownership of our home and absence-of-rent-cost-due-to-ownership is a form of interest income in its own right; upon reflection, people who come from subcultures where car leasing/loans are normalised would likely also be inclined to consider the absence of payments on our (admittedly shitty) car as a form of interest income))
††of devices that no longer exist, having been subsumed by Blackberries and then even further subsumed by smartphones
#reply via reblog #adventures in human capitalism #in which Brin has a job #this probably deserves some warning tag but I am not sure what #apocalypse cw?