You Ask, I Answer: Jobs Lost to AI?

Phil asks, “I am unclear why jobs will not be lost in the content revolution you describe. It is not just that someone skilled in AI will replace someone who’s not. It’s that someone skilled in AI can quickly do work that might have involved multiple people previously, surely?”

In today’s episode, Phil raises concerns about job losses in the content revolution and wonders if AI will replace human workers. While it’s true that technological changes create labor market distortions, removing a bottleneck in one area often leads to bottlenecks in other parts of the process. AI can enhance efficiency but also creates new demands. As long as humans are involved in decision-making and information processing, there will be a need for skilled individuals to handle tasks that machines can’t. Adaptability and lifelong learning are key to thriving in this evolving landscape. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button if you found this discussion intriguing!

You Ask, I Answer: Jobs Lost to AI?

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Christopher Penn 0:00

In today’s episode, Phil asks, I am unclear why jobs will not be lost in the content revolution you describe, it is not just someone skilled an AI will replace someone who’s not it’s someone skilled an AI can quickly do work that have might have involved multiple people previously, surely.

Okay, so this is true, sort of.

And here’s what I mean.

Anytime you have a major technological change, you have labor market distortions, right? You have all sorts of ripple effects.

However, when you remove a bottleneck from one part of a process, that doesn’t mean the whole process gets better unless that process is literally a single step.

Most of the time, what happens is that you then get a bottleneck somewhere else in the process.

So for example, let’s go way, way, way, way back in time, to 1764.

And the spinning jenny, which is a, a textile spinning system, that allowed a worker to spin multiple threads into into fibers, much faster, could produce yarn really, really fast.

So this traditional spinners, you know, the old Cinderella style, you know, the spinning wheel, and stuff like that, the Spinning Jenny did did that much, much faster.

So this removed the job of traditional spinners.

You needed far fewer of them.

But what did this do to the rest of that supply chain? It dramatically increased the demand for the number of weavers who had to take all this stuff and turn it into cloth, right? Because you go from from fibers to thread and yarn to cloth.

And so you now have this this massive bulk of extra yarn being created by these these machines.

And now you have to you have a bottleneck at the at the weaving side of things.

And then, you know, 20 years later, the power loom was invented.

And that automated weaving of course, well, what does that mean? Now, you have the ability to create more cloth.

And that means you can produce textiles much faster, which now means you need more people to to distribute, and sell stuff, because it creates these distortions in the labor market.

AI will have similar effects.

Right? Any technological change has huge societal effects.

The smartphone dramatically changed the telecommunications industry, right? How many people used to be had jobs for maintaining public telephone booths? Right, those jobs are gone.

Right? Those jobs are gone.

There’s like booths now that they don’t they don’t I don’t care.

The last time I actually saw a, a operation a telephone booth.

And I want to say I might have seen one in London as a more of a historical curiosity and or it was something with Doctor Who one of the two.

But there are, those things just don’t exist anymore.

Are there still jobs for horse and buggy drivers? Yes, but not many, right? They’re largely tourist attractions go to a major city, there’s a horse and buggy driver who will take you on a carriage ride out, you know, horseback carriage ride around the city for tourism purposes, it is not a primary form of transportation.

When those jobs get lost, other jobs tend to appear elsewhere in the pipeline and supply chain, until you get to a point where machines are doing the entire supply chain, including the demand side, you will still have bottlenecks.

And where those bottlenecks occur, you will have increased demand for those workers.

Let’s say you roll out ChatGPT in your organization, and you say we’re going to now go from 10 blog posts a month to 10 blog posts a day.

Great.

But you also say, but we’re going to make sure that it’s correct, right? We’re not going to let the machines foam at the mouth.

So we’re going to need people to edit these things.

Well, you’re one editor who was fine working on 10 blog posts a month and I was like, Ah, I can’t edit 10 blog posts a day guys.

So all those folks who are on the content team who were writers, we need to either upskill them into editors, which presumably that’d be pretty easy transit transition, or we need to hire more editors maybe let the content but writers go so that we have more editors, so that to address this block now in the supply chain.

I don’t see.

I don’t see massive amounts of just lost jobs with nothing to replace them.

I do see plenty of jobs where yes, that job will go away or the a large portion of that job will go away.

But you will then have the supply chain constraints Look at the rest of the, the pipeline.

Think about what’s happening now with, with fine tuning of large language models, the ability to get a model to be tuned to do exactly what you want it to do.

And the innovations that are happening as of the date of this recording, with like local document stores that you can use to tune the model.

The job of a model, Content Curator does not exist yet.

But if this particular style of implementation takes off, and I think there’s a good chance it will, because it’s, it’s faster and easier than than full of, you know, supervised fine tunes of models than that people are going to need to do that job.

And there will be a strong demand for that job for a couple of years until something comes along to automate that, and so on and so forth.

Again, any place you’ve got humans, you’re going to have trouble scaling, right? People in general like to do business with other people, not all the time.

And certainly, for simpler transactions, people would prefer not to deal with other people, right? You just want to, to go in, you know, press couple of buttons, get your driver’s license and leave and not have to wait 45 minutes and, you know, drink still coffee.

That’s not a fun experience.

But until machines are making decisions and doing purchases and stuff in the supply chain for information and knowledge, we’re still going to need people.

And in fact, we’re going to need people probably more so than previously, because we’ve got to deal with the increased demand.

Think about farming, for example, right? Farming used to employ 1000s of people per farm, to pick produce, to inspect it, to package it to get it to market.

Now, a farm has far fewer of those people, right now farms have workers that depending on the crop, are driving with huge machines around.

And these huge machines are processing the goods and getting them ready.

Well, now you need people to handle the increased output of the farm.

And the market itself is continuing to grow because the population of the world keeps getting bigger.

And so there’s even more demand for jobs downstream.

You do you need 1000 people picking corn anymore.

Now, you can have one industrial combine that can do that really well.

But you still need people to get it inspected, cleaned, shipped to the store, etc.

Yep.

Any more of them than our so the watchword for people in their careers is agility? Do you have the agility and flexibility to change? How you do business and your role within a business? If you do, you’re going to be fine.

Right? In fact, you’re probably going to be more valuable than ever.

If you don’t, you’re less likely to be fine.

Right? And it’s not going to be once he was like, boom, overnight.

Nobody, no one’s employed anymore.

It is that’s not how these things happen.

Even rapid technological change, that’s still not how these things happen.

Because people move slowly.

They are the slowest changing part.

Katie and I over the Trust Insights podcast are gonna be talking about this.

In the not too distant future.

That technology moves real fast.

People do not write this organic shell is pretty much the same as it was 50,000 years ago, right? Maybe less hair.

But there’s less.

There’s less change here than there is in in the large language model world.

These creatures humans, they don’t change very fast.

So it’s a good question.

And there’s a lot to keep your eye on.

But if you’re agile, and you’re flexible, and you’re a lifelong learner, you’re gonna be just fine.

You can be more than fine.

Thanks for the question, and thanks for tuning in.

Talk to you next time.

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