AI Hype is Affecting Me

A few weeks ago I wrote a satire piece about how artificial intelligence (AI) development is far outpacing society’s preparedness for an AI future. It was joke-ish but not really that funny because it was seething with my own anxiety and frustration around how the world is adjusting to AI, and how I’m adjusting to AI—because I think I have to.

As I delved deeper into these emotions over the past few weeks, I realized it’s not AI technology itself that’s triggering me, but the people who are hyping AI. Specifically, people like this:

When something is at the peak of its hype cycle, like AI currently is, lowest common denominator content like this grabs everyone’s attention and becomes the prevailing narrative. This sucks for a few reasons:

  1. 2018 study found that “a 10% increase in automation risk at county-level is associated with 2.38, 0.8, and 0.6 percentage point lower general, physical, and mental health, respectively.” This is because automation risk fosters income insecurity, or the fear that your future income is at risk. All of this “AI will replace X job” and “you’re going to get left behind” content is literally making us sick.
  2. The person who published the above tweet is a wealthy tech investor who has a financial incentive to pump AI because he has AI companies in his portfolio. That’s all fine and good, but what I can’t get over is just how giddy Jason seems to be about this proposed future he’s investing into. A future where 33% of white collar jobs no longer exist, which would be a lot of human suffering (but not for him, because he’s already rich). This is the tone I see in a lot of “AI is coming for you”-type content. It’s depressing to see so many people eager to devalue human work and promote income insecurity if it means they can make a buck in the short term (this includes you, Hollywood)
  3. The narrative that AI has to be a zero-sum game with winners and losers is BS. Yes, left unchecked, AI will foster greater inequality because the Jasons of the world will capture the majority of the wealth generated by the breakthrough technologies, leaving the rest of us to fight over the crumbs. It’s no surprise the people in the best position to profit are priming us for this reality now. But just because it has always been this way, doesn’t mean it has to be this way again. AI can make everyone better at what they do. Don’t listen to people who want to replace you with AI when they say AI will create winners and losers. The AI itself isn’t doing anything—it’s humans who are trying to maximize their profit at all costs.

I guess I should say now that, no, I don’t believe AI will make me obsolete. Almost all tech innovations of the past 100 years have created more jobs, not less. The fearmongering of “AI is coming for you” is hype cycle nonsense designed to get clicks. However, AI will definitely change everyone’s job. It has already changed mine—which I’m both excited and worried about.

I’m excited because I do believe AI is a productivity unlock. Having ChatGPT write outlines of my blog posts, suggest headlines, tweak sentences, and do research allows me to do more with less. For example, I’m currently writing a series of keyword-optimized blog posts for a startup client, and ChatGPT has allowed me to double my per month output (ChatGPT will change SEO, but I believe SEO will still be relevant long term, especially as calls increase for AI to cite its sources).

That being said, I didn’t come to ChatGPT with open arms or Jason-esque excitement. In fact, the only reason I’m using it is because I feel like I have to. I know other people in my profession are, and I can’t afford to sacrifice a competitive advantage or future income over personal concerns.

What are those concerns? I think this tweet summarized it best:

In my efforts to future-proof myself, I’m worried I’ll move further and further away from what I actually like to do (write) and spend more time doing things that don’t energize me (e.g., copyedit ChatGPT, project management, prompt writing, etc.).

Again, this fear is not because I think ChatGPT is a better writer than me (I’ve tested it many times), but because all the hype and money pouring into AI will demand that people like me change my approach to remain employable (CEOs are already licking their chops thinking about who AI can replace). This goes back to my frustration with the AI hypemen: what is this future you want us all to live in, and why are you so hellbent on devaluing human creativity?

I’m certain all the hardcore capitalists will embed AI in our life in every way that leads to increased productivity and earnings. It’s really disheartening to simultaneously see a bunch of people cheerleading the AI to put all of us out of work (especially if those people are already rich and don’t stand to lose anything). Of course, the hardcore capitalists and the AI cheerleaders are likely one in the same, an AI is just the new front in capitalism’s forever war against labor.

This struggle has never directly affected me before, so I’ve never said anything about it (even though the writing has been on the walls for years).

But now? Well, I can’t help but say something. I’ve spent my entire adult life working on my craft, and I feel like a bunch of people are trying to say that doesn’t matter anymore. And that really sucks! Studies show white collar workers, and especially men, tend to attach more of their intrinsic value to their work, leaving them particularly susceptible to bad emotional outcomes if they’re, say, replaced by AI.

I’m not looking for pity. I’m not saying I’m unwilling to adapt. I’m not even saying the AI hype people have bad intent. It’s just hard to be as excited about AI as this guy when everything I like about my job is being threatened.

The silver lining here is nobody actually knows what the future looks like, least of all the people pumping AI (as much as they’d like you to believe otherwise). It’s also worth noting that we’ve been through this hype cycle before with both Web3 and SaaS. And yes, those innovations changed the world (Web3 less so), but not in the ways everyone predicted they would.

The only reason the hypemen (and they’re almost always men) are expressing a sudden and unwavering dedication to a technology we still know very little about is because that’s what hypemen do (and because they see an opportunity to make money).

My less hype-driven perspective is that, in my profession, AI will eradicate the shitty content mill jobs and other low-quality writing work. But if you were relying on churning out bad content for a living, you probably weren’t going to make it anyway.

Beyond that? It’s still anybody’s guess.

The best thing I think writers can do is continue to level up their skills, lean into their unique POVs, niche down, and foster a writing style that’s distinctly their own. And yes, it probably won’t hurt to develop some writing-adjacent skills like project management, SEO, PR, content strategy, etc.

I don’t recommend the perspective of the person in the above comment. And I’m definitely not going to start calling myself a “prompt engineer” (a BS skill that I don’t believe will exist in 2 years).

I take solace in the fact that the hype cycle will pass, and when it does we’ll be left with a technology that still can’t replace everything a human writer does. And while I can be angry that 1) we’re giving AIs training data to replace us for free, and 2) there will be employers who fire their writers and go all in on AI (likely employers who never valued the written word to begin with), I know that if I keep working on my craft, I can probably (hopefully?) stay a few steps ahead.

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