Written by Christian Ahmer | 11/21/2023

ChatGPT and the scary elimination of work

The integration of artificial intelligence, especially ChatGPT, into my daily routine has been nothing short of transformative. As a web developer, I've found that this AI significantly lightens my workload, streamlining tasks that previously required extensive research and problem-solving. The efficiency of information retrieval has been so enhanced that traditional search engines seem almost redundant. This shift is not lost on tech giants like Alphabet, who may well perceive it as a looming threat to their hegemony, echoing their previous miscalculations with ventures like Google+.

The term 'work facilitation' barely scratches the surface of what AI is accomplishing. We stand at the precipice of a new era where job displacement is not just a fear but a reality. Fields that thrive on creativity and intellect—art, literature, law—are undergoing a seismic shift as AI begins to shoulder tasks traditionally reserved for human minds. The job market is contracting, favoring a select few who can adeptly leverage AI's capabilities.

But what does it mean to gain expertise? Human knowledge is traditionally accrued through a combination of upbringing, education, personal interests, and a relentless drive for experimentation, often culminating in higher education. These pathways to expertise are being undermined by the advent of AI, which offers instant access to the accumulated wisdom of ages at the click of a button. This accessibility could lead to a devaluation of traditional learning and expertise acquisition.

These technological strides bring me significant concern. AI operates without whims, fatigue, or distraction. It embodies efficiency—a trait highly prized in our capitalist society, which often overlooks the human element. The relentless march of progress, driven by human demand, seems indifferent to the upheaval of life plans and the intrinsic values that have long defined humanity. AI serves us, for now, shaping our desires into reality. But as we move forward, we must question whether this service is truly to our collective benefit or if it will lead to an unforeseen diminution of what it means to be human. Eventually it will become a tool for more greed like a money printing machine or even for escalating wars.

AI's influence extends beyond simplifying tasks; it challenges the very fabric of professional identity. In the past, mastery of a craft or profession was a lifelong pursuit, with years dedicated to honing a specific set of skills. Now, AI stands to compress this journey, offering tools that can emulate the results of years of human experience in mere moments. This raises profound questions about the value of professional expertise and the future of skill development.

Moreover, the impact on the labor market is complex and multifaceted. While some jobs will undoubtedly be rendered obsolete, new categories of work will emerge, ones that we can barely conceptualize today. These will likely require a deep understanding of human-AI interaction, a niche that no machine can fully occupy. This evolution could lead to a societal shift, redefining what we consider to be meaningful work.

At the same time, the narrative that AI will serve humanity unconditionally is overly simplistic. The deployment of AI is not without consequences; it reflects the motives and ethics of those who program and control it. The impartiality of AI is a myth; it operates within the boundaries of its design, potentially perpetuating the biases and objectives of its creators. Thus, it is not just a tool of convenience but also a mirror reflecting our own societal values and flaws.

As we grapple with these changes, we must also consider the societal contract and the distribution of wealth generated by AI. The benefits reaped from AI's efficiency could exacerbate socioeconomic disparities if not managed with foresight and equity. This technology, while created by the few, impacts the many, and its governance must be a matter of public interest and debate.

The concern is not just about job elimination but also about the redefinition of human purpose and fulfillment. The essence of what it means to work, to contribute, and to feel valued in society may be at stake. AI, in its unerring and indefatigable manner, could either become an instrument of unparalleled empowerment or a catalyst for profound existential crisis.

While AI serves our immediate needs and performs with an efficiency that benefits capitalist pursuits, its long-term implications are still unfolding. We stand at a crossroads where we must decide how to integrate this technology in a way that preserves human dignity and promotes a just society. As AI reshapes the landscape of work and expertise, we are called to reimagine our roles in this new world, ensuring that the wheel of progress turns toward a future that uplifts all of humanity. Otherwise, and as a father, I fear, that my children will not have the same chances I got when I was young.