Flawed AI Will Still Take Jobs

May 16, 2024

dinosaur30a_thumbThis essay is the work of a dinobaby. Unlike some folks, no smart software improved my native ineptness.

Shocker. Organizations are using smart software which is [a] operating in an way its creators cannot explain, [b] makes up information, and [c] appears to be dominated by a handful of “above the law” outfits. Does this characterization seem unfair? No, well, stop reading. If it seems anchored in reality, you may find my comments about jobs for GenX, GenY or GenWhy?, millennials, and Alphas (I think this is what marketers call wee lads and lasses) somewhat in line with the IMF’s view of AI.


The answer is, “Your daughter should be very, very intelligent and very, very good at an in-demand skill. If she is not, then it is doom scrolling for sure. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Do your part for the good of mankind today.

Artificial Intelligence Hitting Labour Forces Like a Tsunami – IMF Chief” screws up the metaphor. A tsunami builds, travels, dissipates. I am not sure what the headline writer thinks will dissipate in AI land. Jobs for sure. But AI seems to have some sticking power.

What does the IMF say? Here’s a bit of insight:

Artificial intelligence is likely to impact 60% of jobs in advanced economies and 40% of jobs around the world in the next two years…

So what? The IMF Big Dog adds:

“It could bring tremendous increase in productivity if we manage it well, but it can also lead to more misinformation and, of course, more inequality in our society.”

Could. I think it will but for those who know their way around AI and are in the tippy top of smart people. ATM users, TikTok consumers, and those who think school is stupid may not emerge as winners.

I find it interesting to consider what a two-tier society in the US and Western Europe will manifest. What will the people who do not have jobs do? Volunteer to work at the local animal shelter, pick up trash, or just kick back. Yeah, that’s fun.

What if one looks back over the last 50 years? When I grew up, my father had a job. My mother worked at home. I went to school. The text books were passed along year to year. The teachers grouped students by ability and segregated some students into an “advanced” track. My free time was spent outside “playing” or inside reading. When I was 15, I worked as a car hop. No mobile phones. No computer. Just radio, a record player, and a crappy black-and-white television which displayed fuzzy programs. The neighbors knew me and the other “kids.” From my eighth grade class, everyone went to college after high school. In my high school class of 1962, everyone was thinking about an advanced degree. Social was something a church sponsored. Its main feature was ice cream. After getting an advanced degree in 1965 I believe, I got a job because someone heard me give a talk about indexing Latin sermons and said, “We need you.” Easy.

A half century later, what is the landscape. AI is eliminating jobs. Many of these will be either intermediating jobs like doing email spam for a PR firm’s client or doing legal research. In the future, knowledge work will move up the Great Chain of Being. Most won’t be able to do the climbing to make it up to a rung with decent pay, some reasonable challenges, and a bit of power.

Let’s go back to the somewhat off-the-mark tsunami metaphor. AI is going to become more reliable. The improvements will continue. Think about what an IBM PC looked like in the 1980s. Now think about the MacBook Air you or your colleague has. They are similar but not equivalent. What happens when AI systems and methods keep improving? That’s tough to predict. What’s obvious is that the improvements and innovations in smart software are not a tsunami.

I liken it more like the continuous pressure in a petroleum cracking facility. Work is placed in contact with smart software, and stuff vaporizes. The first component to be consumed are human jobs. Next, the smart software will transform “work” itself. Most work is busy work; smart software wants “real” work. As long as the electricity stays on, the impact of AI will be on-going. AI will transform. A tsunami crashes, makes a mess, and then is entropified. AI is a different and much hardier development.

The IMF is on the right track; it is just not making clear how much change is now underway.

Stephen E Arnold, May 16, 2024


Got something to say?

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta