Everybody’s thinking about AI these days. What’s it going to mean for the world? Imagine a world where millions of middle managers and e-mail writers are out of work. Where will they go? What will they do? This is a real problem. Most people don’t work real jobs. By this I mean that they don’t work jobs that contribute to the material well-being of their fellow citizens. They don’t grow food, they don’t build houses, they don’t make sure the water is clean. What they do is arrange words in electronic files for other people to read and respond to, conduct zoom meetings, or create “content.” How can such jobs survive predictive language models?
In fact, how can any human activity survive? This is why AI is a completely different thing than the car replacing the buggy whip. Everyone will bring up that the car put buggy whip manufacturers out of business. This is true, but the car was not a decision tree. The car did not design its own replacements. It was still relatively close to the human decision maker. The car is still a tool of a human user. The AI will soon replace the user.
What is the distinctive human activity? Is there something that humans can do better than these predictive language models? I don’t think there really is. Since they are predictive language models, they are using a probabilistic approach to the grand total of human experience and knowledge. What human doctor is going to do better than an AI doc that can compare symptoms and diagnosis across millions of cases. I don’t think there’s any function that is necessarily done better by a human. We’ve already seen this in chess. Stockfish can beat every single human in the world.
The problem is trying to find worth using the function, as if humans are valuable because of something they can do. That’s wrong. The human is valuable simply because of what it is, simply because it’s human. We don’t need any other reason. If we’re going to start the Butlerian Jihad, we don’t need any reason except that humans are what we prefer. If you are a religious person, you can get a justification for this from the verse about humans being made in the image and likeness of God. If you are not, just admit that like prefers like, and that you are a human and therefore prefer humans.