AI is the big new thing these days. New, new, it’s all so new.
Except when it isn’t.
For example, here’s an article in the Washington Post about how some companies are using AI to write their marketing material, even though human beings tend to be better at it. Why? Because although AI’s writing may not be as high quality, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than hiring a warm body.
Price vs quality, in other words. A debate that predates civilization.
Here’s another example. Rosie and Faris Yakob, a creative husband-wife team announced recently that they’d soon be doing a “future-proofing” ad-industry workshop (which includes helping people embrace future and emergent technologies, especially AI) in Sydney for Yahoo employees.
Say the Yakobs (emphasis ours), “No one knows exactly what the future holds, but one thing that is certain is that anything that can be automated will eventually be automated. As AI becomes an increasingly hot topic in the industry and beyond, we believe that the best way to future-proof agencies and careers is to focus on uniquely human attributes, namely creativity, and collaboration.”
Basically, “True in 2023, true in 1823.”
We’re not saying it’s a good thing, but people’s labor being devalued, and people having to adapt is basically the human condition. The Luddites were protesting (i.e. vandalizing the machines that were putting them out of work) as early as 1811. And as former CTO at Microsoft, Nathan Myhrvold, once said, the story of humankind is the story of humankind swapping one problem for another.
Yes, one could say that the current state of affairs is “unsustainable,” but Marx said the same thing almost two hundred years ago. What he failed to factor in is that humankind is resilient and adaptable. He didn’t foresee things like the growing middle class, women’s suffrage, the rise of labor unions, the end of Empires, the advent of new tech like electricity and automobiles, or the increase in universal education…. We could go on.
In other words, he didn’t see change, he just saw stasis.
There will always be inequality. With or without AI, that’s just the reality of our world. Luckily people are not chess pieces to be moved around the board by all-knowing bureaucrats. We are our own beings with our own agency. As the world changes, so do we.
We’re forever creating businesses and cultures that add lasting value, that value people. We dance. We grind. We fight. And keep it going as long as the market allows us to. It’s a cycle, and it’s always changing. AI might be world-changing, but it won’t change this.