AI and the Bikers Syndrome

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Jan van Boesschoten

Why AI will eat your job

Once upon a time, I heard Joe Jackson sing these two lines :

And if there’s war between the sexes
Then there’ll be no people left

Recently, these lines surfaced from the bottom of my glass while I was floating in thoughts on AI. If men would kill women and women would kill men, we would go extinct. It is some horrible truth. But let’s say we have an AI influencer, making up whatever it wants, creating personalised, realistic, real-time videos and images on the fly, 24/7, whenever you click. Then the whole marketing industry would vanish in some seven-inch racks, in a dark, hot data centre, somewhere, some time. All jobs in the marketing sector will be gone, disappeared, evaporated and with that, people’s income to buy the goods the AI influencer promotes. What’s left will be muttering bits and bytes, for God’s sake and the Devil’s tail to eternity and beyond. Yihee, doomsday, dystopia, world’s end: finally. Everybody will lose their job. Or not? Let’s dig a little bit deeper into the consistency’s substance in my glass to see whether it is half empty or half full.

Let’s start with our Western education system. Whether you hated school or not, it taught you some essential skills like writing and reading. Necessary, even in a world dominated by Large Language Models, it would be foolish to neglect that language is humans’ most important tool. But not the only skill. However, our education system focuses on creating a mainly cognitive labour force that runs as quickly as possible from kindergarten to college. Cognitive progress is closely registered and measured against the prevailing norm from an early age. And the faster you learn, the brighter, the better you are. Though, not any more. We teach AI exactly to do the same thing. No wonder AI eats all your jobs. AI is faster, has access to more information, and has no occupation other than providing output on input 24/7. It’s not busy being human, social, commuting, stimulating, and enjoying its sense’ of input or having fun. Conclusion: while AI will cover a great deal of our repetitive work, we can spend more time being human, social, commuting, stimulating and, enjoying our senses and having fun. This doesn’t mean that we can stop sending our children to school.

Imagine that a complete school class must write an essay about Yellow Stone’s squirrels becoming more aggressive because tourists feed them with M&M cookies. There are about 100 research papers on this subject. All the kids use an AI tool and hand in perfectly written essays about the relation between the blood sugar level of the Yellow Stone’s squirrels and their aggressive behaviour. After the exercise, you still have 100 research papers but an additional 20 essays about the subject. If more classes get the same assignment, the amount of essays will quickly dominate the number of research papers. And although a lot of content is added, additional knowledge and insights aren’t. However, suppose you want to write the 101st research paper on the aggressively behaving squirrels in Yellow Stone. In that case, you have a perfect foundation to start a new building if only the 100 original pieces are shown. If not, you must dig a lot for the same information more than twice. It may be clear AI is a double-edged sword, and we should be careful what we wish for or focus on.

Talking about focus. The bikers among us all know the story about the biker who entered the curve too fast, skidded, and slid further. No problem, he was wearing the proper gear, and only one streetlight was in the bend. Unfortunately, the biker hit that streetlight in full force. Why? Because the driver was entirely focused on not hitting that pole. Thinking: “I don’t want to hit that pole, don’t want to hit that pole”, he fixed his gaze towards it. Bikers know, you go, where fix your gaze towards. Don’t look at where you don’t want to go; look at where you want to go. It is the same with AI. If you fixate on AI eating your job, AI will eat your job. Let’s go back to the glass: half full or empty.

Weeks after Joe Jackson’s lyrics surfaced, I had a drink with a friend. He is a designer. We discussed how AI influenced his work with tools like Midjourney and Dall-E. Totally relaxed, he replied: “I am not worried at all. AI is trained to colour between the lines. Progress and creativity are just the opposite. You have to break things and not follow the rules. Otherwise, you are stuck in Groundhog Day.”

Jan van Boesschoten

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