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No, the machines aren't coming for your job
On chatty computers, hair stylists, and why there are more jobs in the future than in the past
It's easy to watch the arrival of a significant new technology and wonder whether it's bound to have an impact of scale and consequence well beyond previous technologies. Already, breathless headlines promise to reveal "the tech jobs most threatened by ChatGPT and AI". Are the machines really coming for your job? No.
■ Well, they are -- but it's immaterial, and it won't take a very long run for that immateriality to bear out. Jim Pethokoukis, a free-market think-tank analyst, puts it like this: "I think GenAI and LLMs are the real deal, but my baseline remains bullish on the long-term demand for human labor."
■ Yet it's easy to share his optimism about the potential upside, assume that the technologies have the potential to develop even faster than anticipated, and still believe that it won't even take the long term for human labor to hold up. Whatever emerges, it's wise to assume that jobs will be disrupted -- probably lots of them -- but that there will be more jobs than ever in the short, medium, and long terms alike.
■ To believe that people will still have jobs for as long as anyone can look ahead, all one has to do is wager on two things. First, as old needs are satisfied more efficiently, human beings will discover new wants. Second, human beings are going to remain social animals with an irrepressible desire to spend time with other humans.
■ Safe bets, both. By the time we become familiar with a technology, we uncover its shortcomings and imagine its next steps. After the printing press came the radio, followed by the television. Then television jumped to satellites and cable systems and streaming services. We discover new wants all the time.
■ And nothing is more basic about the human experience than the desire to share it with others. With families and friends, of course. But also with classmates and co-workers. And with bartenders and physical therapists and hair stylists. And then with whatever comes next. Some jobs will disappear, and prudent societies will find ways to help soften the transitions. But if there's one safe bet, it's that there will always be something new to do.
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