This is a linkpost for my own article for Wired, which I've been encouraged to post here. It's mostly about AI becoming capable of the kinds of work white-collar workers derive identity, self-worth, and status from, and draws from what's happened with professional Go players who've been beaten by AI models.
For this piece I spoke with Michael Webb, whose study of AI patents in 2019 presaged a lot of what we're seeing in the present moment, and Gregory Clark, a professor emeritus of economics at UC Davis. Also, I didn't end up mentioning them by name, but I spoke with Philip Trammell and Robin Hanson, who were both very helpful.
I actually had a contact at DeepMind who almost connected me with Fan Hui too, but that didn't end up working out.
Anyway, I posted an out-take reel of a few points to Twitter, which maybe I'll just include below (partly so I can correct typos):
A few nuggets that didn’t make it into my Wired piece about AI becoming capable of white collar work, in no particular order:
1. All 4 economists I talked to thought employment rates wouldn’t go down for the foreseeable future. Very strong “don’t worry” vibes
2. Furthermore, one said “whenever major technological developments happen, everyone gets a promotion”—everyone’s job will be slightly more interesting and slightly less grunt-work-y.
3. However, on longer timescales, one noted that economists’ predictions on employment rates contradicted their own predictions on how much work AI would do. He said he thought economists generally have a status quo bias.
4. On the other hand, he thought AI researchers who predicted massive societal revolution generally had an “excitement bias.”
This matches my observations.
5. Based on a @vgr book review, I waded through the incredibly dense “A Tenth Of A Second” by Canales, and learned how fluid our expectations are about human capabilities. There was immense resistance in 19C to letting technology replace the human eye for scientific observation.
6. Now it seems unthinkable that we’d choose to rely on the naked human eye for, e.g., measuring distances and speeds of planets, when we could use a highly calibrated tool.
This makes me expect that a lot of other human abilities will get offloaded to AI very soon,
7. and, maybe most interestingly and comfortingly (?), as soon as it’s normalized for AI to, e.g., write, illustrate, decide, summarize, compare, research, etc, we’ll turn around and call it bizarre that we ever did those things, and no one will feel particularly bad about it.
8. Informally, a lot of people including myself expect to see a wave of ‘lo-fi’/handcrafted art, where the *point* is the absence of tech. ‘Artisanal’ literature, music, movies, etc.
9. Writing already looks different to me and I expect we’ll soon think very differently about a lot of cultural things that have previously been imperceivably interwoven with their human origin, in the same way we learn how brains work when parts of them get damaged.