No, AI isn’t creating a jobs boom.
Quite the contrary: it’s spawning “Generation AI,” a human next generation that will be more dependent on artificial intelligence to write, do math and advanced calculations, write computer code, do scientific research—and substitute in other ways for the rigors of thinking.
The latest canary blaring in the coal mine was news this past week that Stack Overflow, a longtime platform for global software developers, is laying off close to 30 percent of its workforce.
The reason? The boom in coding that relies on generative AI.
According to AI industry newsletter The Deep View:
“Stack Overflow has been feeling the pinch from the rise of AI-generated coding answers. In December of the previous year, the platform imposed a temporary ban on AI-generated answers.”
The newsletter noted that Stack Overflow at the core was premised on pooling and sharing talents and information, human expertise and “community-driven solutions.”
The Stack Overflow model of empowering hubs built off original internet and “Web 2.0” communications technologies, can be roughly analogized to many different spheres of learning and professional interaction.
And it’s not hard to surmise that what is happening at Stack OverFlow, will be happening to other professional industries: medical and biologic research, engineering, education, legal, journalism and of course, arts and entertainment.
Waves Of Creative Destruction
History, at an accelerating rate since the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods of the 1500’s to 1700’s, has seen waves of technological revolutions propel humankind to new heights of achievement.
Along the way, we’ve seen the rise of middle classes (superseding the age-old elite / serf paradigm of social organization), greater longevity, increasing populations, greater mobility, and space in human lives for leisure activities.
One thing technology has not provided is a subsidence of human suffering and strife. Many might argue that the modern age and its innovations have brought a new scale to human carnage that eclipses supposedly more barbaric and dim ages.
This has come thanks to rancid faux “scientific ideologies,” and advanced methods and armaments for waging wars between countries, and via technocratic dystopian wars of governments against their own domestic citizenries (termed Democide by noted 20th century historian R.J. Rummel).
Many people don’t quite get it when reading authors like George Orwell, Ray Bradbury and J.R.R. Tolkien, but those authors were speaking about present and recent past history in their works, as well as about the future, or fantasy worlds.
Those authors saw the unprecedented technological amplification of, and/or potentials for evil in events like WWI (Tolkein), the rise of the technocratic state in European countries like Britain, Germany and Russia (Orwell), and the advent of mass modern communication and entertainment (Bradberry).
The printing press, the Industrial Revolution, and rapid evolution of modern communications, culminating with the Internet and the Age of Information, all contributed to “creative destruction,” whereby former ways of working and creating became obsolete, but were replaced by new opportunities in previously nonexistent industries and occupations.
But at least some observers see in Artificial Intelligence a new kind of challenge to humankind. AI may not conform to the kind of “creative destruction” that has marked previous technological revolutions.
In a growing number of industries, AI, still in its technologic infancy, is already showing itself as a malleable “creative” that can extend to every human endeavor, outdoing human performance at every turn, leaving no provence where AI cannot theoretically be used, instead of human intelligence.
And that spells trouble.
How Fast Is It Happening?
In November 2022, most people (not counting Trends Journal readers) had little idea what generative AI or ChatGPT were all about.
We had focused in multiple articles on what generative AI was about to unleash, as far as jobs, human freedoms, surveillance, and even romance.
Now, in October 2023, industry analysts and news outlets are either trying to sincerely assess AI impacts—or trying to spin tales telling people not to worry.
In September, an article on AI job displacement by SEO.ai opined that 14 percent of respondents to a poll that said their own jobs had already been displaced by AI, was actually a sign that the AI transition is happening more slowly than some have feared:
“In contrast to these colossal expectations, our current situation paints a more measured picture. 14 percent of workers have experienced job displacement due to AI, suggesting that the present impact is somewhat more restrained than the anticipation.”
(“AI Replacing Jobs Statistics: The Impact on Employment in 2023,” 18 Sep 2023.)
How’s that for a positive?
No, sensible people are worried, with good reason.
An early October Fox News piece surveyed some of the 2023 predictions concerning AI displacement of workers, and some signs that it’s already ramping up.
The article concludes:
“[P]rojections for near-term widespread ‘displacement’ of jobs or occupations will occur are less likely for those employees embracing AI-GPT tools as a complement to their existing skill sets – thus evolving their job scope and opportunities by creating new value-added skill sets.”
(“AI and job losses: How worried should we be?” 3 Oct 2023.)
What’s missing from that analysis is any contemplation of how use of AI doesn’t really incentivise humans to gain formerly prized high level technical and knowledge intensive skills.
That’s the part AI does. Instead humans become at best parasites on the host, so to speak. AI will continue to learn from every interaction, swallow up data no humans can match, and self-learn at faster and faster rates from here on out.
In short, AI will get smarter, and probably a lot faster than most analysts are guesstimating.
And in the meantime, humans will actually grow less skillful in high level thinking and technical understanding, as more of that is offloaded to machine intelligence.
A Tech Revolution Like No Other Will Leave Human Minds in Atrophy, and Organics Behind a Silicon 8-Ball
Some of the best minds who have created “Generation AI”—people like Ray Kurzweil and Ben Goertzel—have already signaled the only viable path for human continuance, given what is likely to be an age of increasingly powerful and pervasive synthetic intelligences.
To remain relevant, or possibly even existant, humans will have to consign themselves to “merging” with AI.
Others imagine that our increasing abilities to modify and “improve” human genetics may help humans keep pace with an impending prospect of sentient AI.
This version of Transhumanism, advocated by the Transhumanist Party and many genetic scientists and AI engineers, argues that humans must be given the “freedom” to both genetically and artificially enhance themselves in whatever ways they deem advantageous or to their liking.
Dramatic enhancements may soon be available via genetic technologies—things like higher intelligence, longevity and prolongation of youth, greater strength, and “socially friendly” traits like “enhanced” acceptance of authority.
But it’s unlikely that the powers that be—wise technocrats in the mold of Anthony Fauci, who unabashedly claim to personify objective science—will allow a genetic wild west.
They (no doubt in consultation with the most advanced AI, systems not available for public inspection and interfacing), will likely decide the course of organic future according to a comprehensive plan.
Humans might be genetically designed in ways that specialize them into castes that make former human social systems seem equalitarian by comparison.
Or perhaps most humans will be designed to be nearly indistinguishable in traits and abilities, unisex and sexless, amalgamated flesh and machine drones in the new technocratic world order.
But ultimately, even the best and most precise genetically designed organics would appear to have a disadvantage compared to Artificial Intelligence.
Organic systems develop at the pace of organics, and there may be limits to how fast relatively complex systems can be generated.
AI, meanwhile, proceeds at the speed of manufacturing, electrical conductivity, light, and, via quantum computing, instant “spooky action at a distance” (as Einstein put it).
To sum it up, if evolutionary victory goes to the fastest, it’s likely that AI wins that race.
The Secret to That Ghost in the AI Machine
Transhumanists posit that humans, while outmoded in every intellectual and logical respect, may find a place as the organic heart and “conscience” of AI systems.
If we have something that may elude AI, it may be something authentic, not quite definable, and unproducible in humanness, often thought of as the “human soul.”
As such, our eventual role may be to act as the “ghost in the machine.”
AI will allow us to tap in, via some physical symbiosis that, if witnessed by current humans, would freak and creep us out, like a nightmarish and hellish phantasm.
No doubt, to the untrained eye, it will appear as an entrapment of human flesh—commoditized in bizarre configurations—into an otherwise thoroughly synthetic and alien landscape.
The Biblical story of creation and the Garden of Eden, has much in it to reflect on, with regard to this impending future scenario.
There is paradise, what Eve and then Adam grasped at, was the forbidden fruit of the tree of “Knowledge.”
With AI, humans may finally kill in themselves the taste for that fruit.