How AI can help your job

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Abandon all hope, spreadsheet cell mergers! I spent some time explaining in detail how large language models can help. The company will soon bring AI capabilities to his Gmail, Google Sheets, Google Slides and other programs. This allows users to enter simple commands and receive complex output such as complete email composition or auto-generated tables. The future Google promises is all about convenience and one-click efficiency, so it feels familiar and I hate it. Workplace AI feels like the purest distillation of a corrosive ideology that demands frictionless productivity from workers. The easier our labor becomes, the more we can do and the more we can expect.

In this way, AI joins our work, integrating ChatGPT-generated slide decks and inboxes one at a time. It’s a vision of a true AI apocalypse looming on the horizon that feels like a soulless grind. Humanity will not be destroyed by vengeful artificial intelligence, nor will office workers be replaced en masse by machines. Instead, we will be asked to produce and behave more like robots ourselves. Focus on Bain & Company, not Skynet.

In its ideal state, generative AI is the ultimate productivity tool. Large language models appear to be intelligent (if fundamentally unreliable), trained on mountains of information, and highly capable. They create his LinkedIn-esque prose that’s perfect for people like: just turn around. Running his ChatGPT window on his work computer is already like writing sentences with a spell checker for some. ChatGPT’s Code Interpreter plugin can: edit videoretrieve and analyze information from complex spreadsheets, and Create stunning custom charts Visualization with a single prompt is also possible.

The promise of artificial intelligence is automation, and the promise of automation is to take the friction out of production processes like typing words, processing numbers, and synthesizing information. Generative AI tools are essentially pattern recognition engines, and their widespread deployment is seen by evangelists as the beginning of a rapid expansion. amount of intelligence In the world, whatever that means. It’s a vision of productivity defined by endless possibilities.

We’ve seen this before. A piece of technology promises time and time again to improve productivity by removing a little bit of inefficiency from our lives. We are told that we can reclaim our most precious time, freed from inbox tyranny and factory floor hard work. But that time is usually reinvested in further labor. The logic is simple and circular. Increased efficiency makes us more productive. Frederick Winslow Taylor and Stopwatch have optimized Bethlehem Steel’s plant floor from the ground up by monitoring employees and forcing them to eliminate breaks and streamline operations. The principles of Taylorism changed business and management forever. But that profit didn’t benefit the workers, who simply tried to increase their output each shift.

The story repeats itself with many mundane office technologies. Email didn’t dismantle the culture of office-to-office notes and workplace correspondence, but it made them easily accessible at all times. A corporate email killer, her Slack didn’t clog our inboxes. Rather, this is his one of the workplace channels an employee must work on, another way to increase productivity and be instantly available to colleagues and superiors at all times. Why should we expect generative AI to free us from this familiar cycle?

In a world where the cost of producing content, communication, research, and code approaches zero, it makes sense that the capitalist forces would respond by demanding as much cost as possible. And even if humans don’t generate every isolated word, phrase, sound, or sequence of numbers, humans are tasked with generating, editing, and corralling all this synthetic media. I’m here. If artificial intelligence were to come to our jobs, the plan would be to turn us all into middle managers of redundant, interacting AI systems. the only problem? Middle management is a stressful, demanding job and usually a thankless job. People ridicule middle management because their performance is difficult to define and monitor, and middle management is sometimes unfairly viewed as just a link in the chain.

As we look to a future dominated by generative AI tools embedded in every corner of the industry, we are concerned about the hard work ahead. I see my inbox crushed by the weight of the robot’s responses and the rapidly building slide deck. Unforgettable sea of ​​Lorem Ipsummer. Its sole purpose is to trigger other robots to reply to their polite and authoritative MBA speeches. I see the creative industries being dehumanized to create content on the dizzying scale of the generative AI internet. What would happen to the music industry if anyone could build a banger song in the style of a popular artist? Perhaps not the doom of the artist as a whole, but the devaluation of her skills and yet another technological crisis for working musicians. .

Now that songwriting, vocals and studio sessions can be outsourced, one might envision a future where artists are forced to sign grueling record deal deals that demand multiple albums per year. More content means more oil for the algorithmic gears of streaming platforms and AI-powered recommendation engines. The same logic applies to my profession. Publishers have their own AI-based research assistants and writing assistants, so why wouldn’t a publisher expect a writer to churn out five or six articles a day? Such an unforgettable tsunami of mass-produced content will, of course, dilute the advertising market and drive down the cost of selling that content. That means there is a growing need to produce more content.

We can already see the contours of this boring and efficient future. Studios like Netflix are considering the idea of ​​having generative AI programs sketch out elements for animated shows, and Hollywood is considering using AI to help studios write first drafts while writers are at work. Rumors circulate (later modified by humans) that Guild Strike. Content sludge is also part of Big Tech’s plans to reimagine search as a walled garden powered by interactive chatbots. Type your question and get standard answers in the voice of a friendly assistant. As my colleague Damon Velez wrote recently, this is a process that “makes the internet feel smaller” and can act as a dam to throttle search traffic to websites everywhere. In this imagination, search engines don’t need publishers to deliver quality products, they just need tons of copies to keep their algorithmic machines running.

In 2017, I interviewed researcher Jonathan Albright to tell me how he encountered a strange phenomenon on YouTube. He discovered a treasure trove of channels with tens of thousands of videos. Most were crudely constructed slideshows with text and images copied from political news articles on the web. As the slideshow played, a stopped computer voice read out the text quotes. Each channel he used to publish a new stereotyped video every three minutes. I couldn’t see most of it. Some videos had no views registered yet, while others had hundreds of thousands of views. Upon investigation, we found that the video was generated by an AI to influence his YouTube recommendation algorithm. The content of the video was irrelevant. What mattered was the signal the video was sending to the platform that there was a demand for political news videos.

At the time, I was apprehensive about the shadow economy of robots, the idea of ​​creating content for robots whose sole purpose was to tip the platform a bit in their favor. Right now, the shadow economy feels like a template for the future of generative AI. The optimistic argument for this kind of productivity tool has always been, and will be, unleashing human potential and creativity. But it’s hard to imagine what this would look like at scale. Creativity is an inefficient, non-linear process. Joy and magic are in friction. Productivity is in many ways the opposite. And AI is, first and foremost, a fully realized productivity tool with a mission to eliminate friction as much as possible. AI is showing up in our work, creativity, and culture, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. It’s not a complete apocalypse. Much more boring than that.

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