For decades we’ve been warned that artificial intelligence is coming for our jobs. Sci-fi books and movies going all the way back to Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano portray a world where workers have been replaced by machines (or in some instances, just one machine). More recently, these ideas have moved from the annals of novels into the predictive economic papers of governments and consulting firms. In 2016, the Obama administration authored a report warning that the robots were coming, and that millions of Americans could soon be out of a job. In 2021, McKinsey predicted that algorithms and androids would vaporize 45 million jobs by 2030. And the Brookings Institute prophesied in a 2019 study that 52 million U.S. jobs would be affected by algorithms by 2030.
While no one can agree on exactly when the robots will take over, or how many jobs they will swallow up, the assumption has generally been that garbage collectors, bus drivers, and interstate truckers will be among the first to lose their livelihoods to A.I. Lately, however, it’s starting to look as if people like me—creatives—are even more imminently in danger. Over the past few months, new advancements in A.I. have made it clear that writers, illustrators, photographers, journalists, and novelists could soon be driven from the workforce and replaced by high-tech player pianos.
It was late when I first heard the loud clicking noise coming from outside. As I looked out of my bedroom window, the tall grass swayed in an unseen breeze. And then, a shadow passed over it—which is when I saw it.
That paragraph wasn’t written by an MFA, or a sci-fi author, but rather by a new online machine-learning platform called Sudowrite, which is billed as a tool to help with the creative-writing process. For the above paragraph, I wrote the first sentence—about the loud clicking noise—and the A.I. wrote the rest.
Advancements in writing are just the beginning. Another OpenAI tool currently being likened to magic by people in Silicon Valley is a visual platform called Dall-E. Using a version of GPT-3, Dall-E can create truly astounding renditions of artworks and illustrations. Like GPT-3, Dall-E has learned how to draw and paint by combing through billions of images. It’s now conversant in styles, objects, shapes—you name it. Just type a set of commands into Dall-E, and it will nearly instantaneously generate an image to illustrate them.
Feature creep ... digital style