As previously noted, it’s getting harder to find and hold onto a decent job. And awfully few of the alleged job creators – the ones the Republicans say we can’t tax because they need that money to create jobs – are creating jobs.
I had held out hope that those of us who put one word after another to create meaning might be spared the ax. Oh, sure, newspapers have been shedding jobs for almost a decade; I’ve known that since I lost my newspaper job in 2003. Under the right circumstances, though, those jobs could come back.
Or not. Not when advances like this are being made in the field of artificial intelligence. Read it first, then continue here.
What’s more, computers will combine words with images and video for a more well-rounded package. Give it 10 years (at the outside) and computers will animate portions of what they write; they’ll be producing stories with moving images, as newspapers do in Harry Potter’s magical world. Think of how children’s books will change; kids will not only hear about Peter Cottontail crawling under Farmer McGregor’s fence, but they will also see him do so. Think about how manuals will change; along with the written instructions, you will see Tab A fit into Slot B.
Say a computer does, in fact, win the Pulitzer Prize. With a human author, readers might have to wait a year or two or thirty before there’s another book by that author. The computer can have another one written and packaged later that same afternoon, in the same award-winning style, so there’s no time lag for the fans.
Sure it will be missing some peculiar, particularly human element, but I am not at all sanguine that will matter to the majority of people. Look at the popularity of boxed and canned and microwaveable foods and corporate hamburgers as opposed to a meal made of homegrown or locally grown foods and prepared (slowly, gradually, perhaps even carefully and lovingly) by human hands. It’s not that the latter isn’t still appreciated, but enough people embrace the former that they’re major industries. I can’t see why the same mindset wouldn’t apply to the arts.
Editors, both in-house and freelance, are similarly doomed. Software that can write a decent story can edit a human’s work in seconds and for pennies. If humans are still writing.
This is one more step on the road to the jobless economy. We have some hard decisions to make in the next decade or so about what it is humans are supposed to do. How are we to sustain ourselves? What should our quality of life be and how do we achieve it?
Fiction writers can lead this discussion. At least, we can until the computers take over.