Discover more from Culturcidal by John Hawkins
Is ChatGPT Going to Break Capitalism?
Short answer: Yes.
Of course, the longer answer is much more complicated, and it involves a lot more than ChatGPT. However, before we dig into that, we should probably start with the comments from Sam Altman, the creator of ChatGPT, that prompted this column:
In what's perhaps an attempt to head off bad press — or, at very least, convince people he's not the bad guy — OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has given Forbes an interview in which he claims that his for-profit company is ultimately going to bring about capitalism's downfall.
...The CEO behind the record-breaking ChatGPT has a bit of a strange background, the TL;DR of which being that he once admitted to being a doomsday prepper who believes that killer artificial intelligence or a lab-modified virus could bring about the end of days.
Much of the OpenAI CEO's rhetoric in his recent Forbes exclusive hinges on the future — the future of the company, of course, but also on the future of AI in general, and how Altman believes it will dovetail with sentient AIs, otherwise known as artificial general intelligence (AGI).
...In one exchange, Forbes' Alex Konrad noted the inherent tension regarding capitalism that's found between OpenAI's "research-driven" foundation and the buckets of money investors have put into it. Altman had a provocative response.
"I think capitalism is awesome. I love capitalism," he told Forbes. "Of all of the bad systems the world has, it's the best one — or the least bad one we found so far. I hope we find a way better one."
"I think that if AGI really truly fully happens," he continued, "I can imagine all these ways that it breaks capitalism."
If you’ve never dug into these issues before and the other technology that is on the horizon, it may be a little hard to understand what Altman is driving at given that he only briefly touched on these topics.
First of all, consider the most general assumptions that Americans have about what their cycle of life will look like. If you asked the average person, they’d say something roughly like this:
“You’re born. You go to school. You get a job and work. When you get old, you retire, then you die.”
ChatGPT (and other forms of AI), robots, computers, advanced machinery, and remote forms have the potential to completely eradicate that middle portion of life to such an extent that it may create a huge mismatch between the number of available jobs and the number of workers. There are roughly 160 million Americans working today. What happens if let’s say, there are only 100 million jobs and suddenly, there are 60 million people not just without jobs, but with little hope of ever getting one?
This is not an idle question, it’s what the civilized world seems likely to look like in the next decade or three. Since we’re talking about ChatGPT, let’s start there:
The debate over whether AI will automate jobs is nothing new. A 2013 University of Oxford study found that AI could eliminate 47% of US jobs in the next 20 years. While that prediction strays from baseline, the idea that emerging AI technologies like ChatGPT could impact people’s workplaces — particularly white-collar workers — is becoming an even more tangible reality, according to Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute who has examined the impact of AI on the American workforce, Insider said.
...Here are the 10 jobs AI could replace based on our research.
Tech Jobs (Coders, Computer Programmers, Software Engineers, Data Analysts)
Programmers, software developers, and data analysts could be supplanted by AI, says an expert.
Coding and computer programming are in-demand skills, but it’s possible that ChatGPT and similar AI tools will fill in some of the gaps in the near future.
Tech jobs like software engineer, web developer, computer programmer, programmer, and data scientist are “fairly amenable” to AI technologies “which are crowding out a bigger part of their work,” Madgavkar said.
You may notice that those aren’t just “jobs,” they’re high-paying, white-collar jobs – and if anything, that list doesn’t go far enough. Others are predicting ChatGPT will take the jobs of retail staff, copywriters, cybersecurity experts, and of course, graphic artists. AI art is good enough that it seems entirely possible that it could end up taking the jobs of most graphic designers. For example, take a look at these pictures. None of them are real human beings. They’re all created by AI:
It’s true that AI won’t replace real women, but could it replace cam girls? OnlyFans girls? Could AI-generated customized pornography practically eradicate a whole billion-dollar industry in the near future? That doesn’t seem impossible.
So, as it advances, AI could take a huge bite out of the white-collar job market.
However, the blue-collar job market also has a lot of threats as well. Some of them have already presented themselves. For example, you often hear that “good-paying manufacturing jobs” have left the United States to go to places with cheaper labor. There is a lot of truth to that, but it’s also true that technological advances have dramatically reduced the number of workers needed to do all kinds of jobs. That will continue and accelerate, but there are bigger things on the horizon.
To name one of them… self-driving cars.
Are self-driving cars ready for prime time, yet? No, but is it entirely possible that they will be in a decade? Absolutely. Then, what happens to cabbies? Uber drivers? Truckers? Chauffeurs?
McDonald’s has a FULLY AUTOMATED restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas.
How many restaurant workers are there in America that could be threatened by automation in that industry? Waitresses, chefs, burger flippers, fry cooks, dishwashers, managers? There is an answer to that question. It’s 11 million.
Of course, it’s also worth noting that Elon Musk is working on a “Tesla Bot.”
These robots are a few years away from going on sale, but this is another product that has the potential to eradicate tens of millions of jobs:
(Elon Musk) was not shy about predicting the consequences of fully functional robotic workers and assistants, saying they would lead to a "future of abundance, a future where there is no poverty, a future where you can have whatever you want in terms of products and services.” Musk acknowledged that there are robots available today — perhaps from companies like Boston Dynamics — that appear to be able to do more, but said that Optimus, unlike them, is intended for mass production: millions of units.
Achieving that would bring about a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it, Musk added.
He’s not wrong: if Tesla or any other company can develop working, functional, effective robots that are widely available at a relatively low cost, it changes almost unimaginably huge parts of modern economies and societies. Warehouse workers, fast food workers, janitors, factory workers, construction workers, maids, landscaping workers, shipping and receiving personnel, and stocking clerks are just a few roles that could be taken by high-level humaniform robots.
Again, we’re not quite “there” yet with all of these inventions, but we’re close enough now that we can see “there” from here and it raises some very obvious questions that we don’t necessarily know the answer to yet. Like:
* If we have large portions of the population that no longer work, how are they going to live? The obvious answer to that would seem to be Andrew Yang’s Universal Basic Income, but that creates a whole host of new problems that I discussed in more detail here.
* Throughout world history, when societies have had large groups of people that don’t work, it has often led to crime, rioting, and societal unrest. The answer to this is usually something akin to “bread and circuses,” but that often turns out to be a frequently ripped-off band-aid, not a fix for the problem. How do we prevent this? If we don’t prevent this, how do we prevent the moral decay that inevitably goes along with this sort of thing?
* What happens when large numbers of Americans are effectively permanently locked out of the American dream and locked into a jobless existence and subsistence-level wages from the government? What happens to their sense of purpose? What happens to their happiness level? What happens when these increasingly hopeless people see AI billionaires flying around on their “hover yachts” while they’re living in a shanty, playing God of War 17 and taking oxycontin to dull the pain just like everyone else they know?
* What happens if the future IS NOT brighter? What if we’re inevitably hurtling towards a dystopian world of working “haves” with robot armies and “have nots” barely scraping by and with little hope of having a better future?
The fact that we should be asking these questions doesn’t presuppose their answers, BUT these are areas we need to talk about and think about before it’s too late. These are real questions our society may be confronted with in a relatively short period of time and the sort of people who ARE thinking about these questions are saying things like, “You will live in a pod, eat the bugs, own nothing, and be happy.” The time to come up with different answers is right now.