On Future Artisans

2022-Aug-14

We have this near wizard-level magical technology emerge that can create, at our written direction, artistic visions never before conceived.

Instead of excitedly embracing it as a powerful democratizing agent allowing you to explore new ideas, and kick start your own creative juices, a portion of the creative community is utterly terrified.

“They’re stealing from me!”, “Nobody will buy my art now!”, “My work is meaningless!”

But you can see how capitalism caused that pain, right? In order to stay afloat, you have to optimize your skills in order to maximize profit. If you’re very lucky, you’ll find an intersection between that and a creatively satisfying job. But most are not that fortunate.

Yes, this is from Midjourney, but I also manually edited it afterward. AI and humans working together, side-by-side.
Yes, this is from Midjourney, but I also manually edited it afterward. AI and humans working together, side-by-side.

I’m not sure what I can say to ease that mindset. All I know is that you can’t put technological genies of this caliber back in the bottle.

You’ll either go with the flow and find ways to live with it, or… well, you’ll have a real bad time going forward.

I know “adapt or die” is not what anyone wants to hear, but it’s on the table whether we like it or not.

Robot automation is estimated to have cost the jobs of over 400,000 people since 1990. Dangerous, monotonous work now done safely by machines. New roles inevitably fill the vacuum; hopefully those new jobs bring a higher quality of life.

Despite that particular topic also being controversial, automation is much easier to understand as a ‘positive’ in that light. Having these kinds of game changers affect something as core to the human experience as artistic expression, well… yeah, that’s on a whole other level, admittedly.

I’m a programmer. We’ve already started seeing the early exploration of AI-based automation.

Maybe in a decade I can simply roll up to a terminal prompt and describe the functionality I want to see in a website. A minute later it’ll grind out a tarball for me to inspect, make a few changes to, and (hopefully) run a security audit on.

As long as the technology was proven and solid… would I be out of a job?

Quite possibly.

But there’s also been a whole slew of potentially fun side projects I might have worked on if I didn’t have to slog through the drudgery of getting there. My barrier to entry would be lower, and I can just get on with the fun parts of programming.

Frameworks like Express and Laravel basically do this already, in a sense. Game engines like Unity and UE, as well.

None of that comes anywhere near the level of “Computer, create an X with Y that does Z.”

At least not yet.

Clearly the the die has been cast, and the path towards that day is already in place.

The future is always coming, by fits and starts… and occasionally in gushing fountains, like with AI-driven art.

So, while I may not be an artist or musician, I can at least sympathize with the existential “threat” being felt. It’s just closer to your doorstep than mine at the moment…

One day, if I’m still around, I’ll be staring down the barrel of this, too. What will I do when my primary means of income no longer exists?

I’ll have to adapt.

Hopefully, quite prosperously. 🍻