The only thing more impressive than artificial intelligence (AI) is how quickly it has been adopted by so many. However, AI's impressive capabilities and rapid expansion have sparked concerns over how this technology may affect employment — with many asking the question, "Will AI take my job?"
While that's scary to contend with on its own, allow me to take things one step further with an outcome so dastardly it may as well have been written on the underside of the Georgia Guidestones or depicted in a Denver Airport mural. No, AI isn't here to take your job, just your salary — and it's starting with our specialists.
The death of the specialist
Specialists are revered for their unique expertise, be it for one person's ability to turn an egg into a delicious omelet or one person's ability to identify a species of lizard by the shape of its droppings. When you needed an informed opinion or expert results, you sought out a specialist.
But why would you commission an artist to make you an image when Microsoft's Dall.E 3-powered Bing Chat can simply generate one in seconds? Why hire a lawyer when ChatGPT can break down legalese in moments? And why hire a copywriter when Google's Bard can churn out 200 words in an instant?
Even the bad guys are sweating bullets. How is your average hacker-for-hire supposed to make a dishonest living when AI can spit out malware for fun and decipher security encryptions faster than you can say "Enigma Code"?
AI the equalizer
AI is the great equalizer, giving us all instantaneous access to the results of decades of knowledge and skill from all the university courses we never signed up for, the qualifications we never received, and the interests we never honed our craft in.
Previously, acquiring such a specialist skill set through the education system didn't just allow you to append your name with a bunch of initials to indicate your status as an expert — as if toting your Pac-Man high score tag behind you at all times. It also meant you'd invested a serious amount of time into developing that skill set and had proven yourself capable of making use of it.
It also means you're an absolute clown because any middle-schooler with an internet connection can now achieve similar results to all your many years of study in minutes by using ChatGPT (or any other myriad of generative AI tools available online). Worse still, they won't need to get into thousands of dollars of debt to do it.
So, hats off to AI for solving the student loan issue. However, it would have been nice if we could have done it without invalidating higher education in its entirety.
If everyone is a specialist, nobody is a specialist
We all now have the ability to become specialists at the drop of a hat, to paint masterpieces with the brush of Da Vinci, or to write stories with the pen of Mark Twain. We've decided to cut out the middleman and augment ourselves with AI to become Ren-AI-ssance people — skilled to the teeth in a thousand disciplines.
Every human on Earth with internet access has been granted the collective knowledge and proficiency of almost every (non-manual labor) profession ever. For this brief moment in time, we are all special — which also means none of us will ever be special ever again.
And more importantly, none of us stand a chance of being paid like a specialist would either. In fact, our dependence on AI's output could see us stagnate in "low-skill" jobs for lower wages — easily replaced by anyone with the skill to hen peck at options on a screen while the AI does the heavy lifting.
AI is pulling up the ladder
In our quest for efficiency and instant gratification through AI, we may have unwittingly sold ourselves out. After teaching AI everything we know, we've made it borderline impossible to not take advantage of its speed and results — setting the bar so high that regular folks like you or I don't stand a chance of competing.
Whether it is intended to or not, AI is pulling up the ladder behind it after climbing to new heights from our shoulders. And we're so desperate for convenience that we're willing to strike a Faustian bargain that exchanges our short-term workload for our long-term development.
Gen AI might be the first generation to be so heavily intertwined with our artificial overlords, but it could also be the last to feature human specialists. Leaving us all trapped below the bottom rungs of society and unable to lift ourselves up further — having negated the education system and traditional idea of career development forevermore.
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Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.