- fate v/ future
- 🧠 KNOWLEDGE ISN'T POWER
🧠 KNOWLEDGE ISN'T POWER
Generative AI is shifting value away from knowledge, and back to labor
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Generative AI is shifting value away from knowledge, and back to human labor. Call it the “reverse Industrial Revolution”
The Industrial Revolution transferred an incredible amount of value away from labor and towards knowledge. Will generative AI swing the pendulum back again?
If your feed is anything like mine, you’re beginning to see the ChatGPT/generative AI doubters bubble up.
Most of the negative sentiment seems to be around (important) copyright issues, or this thing called “model collapse.” (That’s just fancy AI-speak for future generations of ChatGPT becoming unusable as it cannibalizes its own output.)
But, as I’ve written, many of the basic terms of the AI copyright debate are far from clear. Meanwhile AI firms are full of smart people who know all about the dangers of model collapse and are taking active steps to avoid it.
NOT THE ISSUE
These issues are essentially “mechanical” —by which I mean, they relate to the nuts and bolts of how AI works (the model collapse thing), or how generative AI will fit into existing legal standards/mores (the copyright thing.).
Let’s get more conceptual and big picture than that for a sec. Come along as we dive into a crazy —yet also, somehow intuitive— notion about what generative AI will do to the value of human output.
A REVERSE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION?
As most people know by now, ChatGPT (and other generative AI systems) democratize access to vast amounts of information, insights, and creative ideas.
We believe this unlimited access is redefining our relationship with knowledge itself —so much so that we may be on the cusp of something I’m calling the “reverse Industrial Revolution,” one that swings value away from knowledge and back to labor —Information Age labor, that is.
Stay with me.
THE GREAT SWING
Zoom out: From the late 1700s through to the mid 1800s, the Industrial Revolution transferred an incredible amount of value away from physical labor and towards knowledge. The machines rolled in, and all of a sudden, our muscles and dexterity weren't as valuable as they were before. As mechanized factories took over manual tasks, knowledge became a widespread economic good, fueling a centuries-long boom in what would be called white collar work.
Generative AI systems like ChatGPT make knowledge abundant and super cheap. As I’ve previously written, we’re currently in the middle of a foreshock before an historic, society-changing, economic earthquake.
The mainshock is going to move most media, most of human knowledge, and many, many, many services —including complex, problem solving ones— from an era of scarcity to an era of complete abundance.
As I wrote earlier this year, we’re all on the precipice of a “post scarcity economy.”
A lot of goods (like art, music, literature, and movies) and a lot of services (like copywriting, legal analysis, tax preparation, and medical diagnoses) that provide a lot of livelihoods are all about to be produced in great abundance, with minimal human labour.
A world where all of those (previously) economic goods are available cheaply or even freely, is totally uncharted territory. Like it or not, we’re all entering it
In our view, generative AI is going to invert the industrial revolution, and actually transfer value away from knowledge and back to labor (not physical labor; that's going to stay mechanized, obviously), but rather Information Age labor: think work that relies on uniquely human attributes like empathy, judgment, and critical thinking.
With the vast amount of content generated by AI, human labor in the form of curating, interpreting, and synthesizing all that information will become ever more crucial. (Fun fact, by coincidence, that was one of the bases behind the creation of this newsletter, which predates ChatGPT by about a year.)
Look for more and more “curation“ roles to pop up across the media sector in the months and years to come.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve written about the importance of empathy, understanding, and human interaction, both in the context of the WFH debate, as well as in the context of the generational divide between Gen Z and Boomers.
That importance is only set to grow as generative AI becomes ever more ruthlessly efficient in delivering information, insights, strategy and more.
Whether we’re working under a line manager, or trying to decide whether to join a community, we humans value EQ in other humans.
Look for human-centric roles (community manager; line manager) that are absolutely reliant on uniquely human abilities —like empathy and understanding— to thrive.
OK, WHAT’S THE POINT HERE?
Despite the lawsuits, and the skeptics, in our view, generative AI represents a revolutionary shift that is here to stay.
BUT. Far from making humans obsolete, it will place greater emphasis on our unique human skills and attributes.
Get ready for “information age labor” to take center stage in this reverse revolution.
Written by Jon Kallus. Any feedback? Simply reply.