Starving Artists: Cockroaches of the Coming Job Market Meltdown

cockroach-artist

That’s a provocative title.  Job Market Meltdown?  Cockroaches?!  Artists?!!  Lots of scary words there.  The people who know me know I’m not big on rocking the boat, but I just can’t get this thought out of my mind.  I often chew on the future and this post is about the future of the job market and our very survival as employees.  It’s an incredibly important issue, so I had to get your attention.

Maybe I could put it another way…

Hey!  You’re all losing your jobs!  No one is safe! 

Okay.  I should pump the brakes a little before everyone thinks I’ve lost my mind.  Not to worry, everybody.  Our robot overlords won’t take over for a very long time.

I used to think that.  Until about 2 hours ago when 60 Minutes ran an artificial intelligent (AI) segment where Charlie Rose talks to a creepy android named Sophia that aims to be our superior in every way.  It makes me think things might be advancing a little faster than even I thought.  We’ve got maybe another election cycle or two.

It’s time we face facts, jobs as we now know them will continue to disappear at an increasingly rapid rate.  And most 9-to-5 jobs requiring humans, even the ones that require years of training that we think of as the most stable careers, will eventually disappear.  AI is simply going to be that good.

Even doctors aren’t immune.  Physicians may eventually lose out to machines like the molecular healing pod Matt Damon discovers on Elysium.  If you didn’t see that movie, Elysium is a giant space station paradise for the wealthy that orbits Earth.  Earth, where Damon’s character lives, has become a polluted and over-populated slum.  The fortunate citizens of Elysium have access to healing pods that keep them young and healthy and beautiful for eternity (or at least a very long time).

Okay forget the sci-fi movies.  Let’s look at real life now.  Tonight’s 60 Minutes story also featured IBM’s Watson.  It turns out our favorite AI computer (the one from the awkward IBM commercials with Bob Dylan) has his “eyes” set on our best jobs.  He even parlayed his Jeopardy championship into a job fighting cancer with the world’s best oncologists.  How could you do this to us, Watson?   

My point is, even if our jobs are safe for the foreseeable future, we need to start thinking about the rapid advance of AI and how it could completely flip the employment picture for everyone.

Brace Yourselves For the Coming Career Crisis

What can we do about the coming career crisis brought on by AI and automation?  What do we do when there just aren’t enough jobs to go around?  How do we protect our income and the income of future generations?

Well, one thing that has already been discussed is that maybe there should be some sort of livability stipend, a baseline salary that each and every one of us “earns” just for fogging a mirror.

This year, in fact, Switzerland voted on just that sort of unconditional basic income.  In June, voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to give every adult there a monthly check of roughly $2,500 and every child a little over $600 no matter what.

So, that’s certainly not a slam dunk solution.  If you like the idea of an unconditional basic income, though, be my guest.  Lobby the U.S. Congress (or your own government for those outside the States).  But it’s hard to count on anything from Congress nowadays [end political rant].  Also, I don’t want to debate this topic here.  It could be the subject of a future post, though.

Instead, I’d like to focus on actions we can take as individuals to better position ourselves in this new reality.  In my mind, there are a few things we can do.  And you should probably be doing at least one of these things whether you believe an unconditional basic income is coming and robots will take over the world or not.  Not surprisingly, it involves investing for the future:

  1. Invest in the stock market – Become part-owners of the machines that will eventually render our work obsolete.  We can set ourselves up to benefit from the economic boom that will surely come from the productivity explosion when robots run the world.
  2. Invest in real estate – Set yourself up to earn passive income that way.  Presumably people will always need a place to live.  Unless we end up in stacked pods plugged into a giant power plant owned by the robots like Keanu Reaves in The Matrix.  If you didn’t see that movie… Wait a second! Everyone saw that movie.
  3. Invest in your imagination – Finally, and most importantly, we can nurture our own creativity.  We can nurture our inner starving artist and become…

The Cockroaches of the New Economy

They can outlearn us.  They can outwork us.  But computers can’t crush a starving artist.  Creativity is the one thing that gives all of us the advantage over machines.  I think it will continue to be our one advantage over even the super advanced AI machines like Sophia and Watson.

If you haven’t already figured it out, being a cockroach is a good thing.  It may be a disgusting visual (not a big fan of bugs myself).  But it means you’re a survivor when everyone else got incinerated in the job market meltdown.

Are you ready for an even better visual?  The very fact that a human being can look at a urinal and see art proves our creative superiority cannot be surpassed.  If there was a computer algorithm for art in the early 1900s, there is absolutely zero chance it spits out Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain“, or anything the Dadaists did for that matter.

Fountain 1917, replica 1964 by Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968
Fountain 1917, replica 1964 Marcel Duchamp 1887-1968 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1999 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T07573

I submit this, urinal=art, as concrete (porcelain) proof that starving artist will be the last profession to go.

Now, I’m not saying everyone should immediately shed their suits and ties (or scrubs), move to Vermont and don a painter’s smock.  I’m saying every single one of us has the capacity in their own circle of influence to create something the world has never seen or think up something that no computer could ever calculate.  Our job now is to nurture the innate creativity that can stretch concepts to absurdity.

And we can leverage technology to do it.  The very technology that takes our jobs by the handful gives us more and more ways to express our creativity.

The most obvious and one of the easiest ways is to create a blog about something you like to think about (like this one).  It may not be a profit center by itself.  I haven’t made a penny and it’s not in my near-term plans.  But acting like a starving artist on the side will get those powerful creative juices flowing to use in everything else you do and help you maintain relevance in an increasingly difficult job market.

So, where exactly does the “starving” part come in.  I say “starving” because we can all be better stewards of our money and resources.  We can all live a little more efficiently to give us the flexibility to adapt to whatever the economy throws our way.

Actually, I added “Starving” to the “Artist” in the title because it sounded a little better and I decided to run with it.

You see how I did that?  Computers can’t just make shit up like that.  They can’t stretch a metaphor like I did.  And they certainly can’t stack metaphors on other metaphors.  Cockroaches.  Starving artists.  I think we’ll all be okay after all.

Now, go out there and create something!

These are my opinions.  Please do your own research before investing in any asset.  

follow me on Twitter @cabbageblog

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18 comments

  1. Cool post,
    I’m really into this kind of stuff too. I can totally see most people being out of jobs in the next 10 years. Or at least forced to work from home. Because all call centre jobs, all driver and delivery related jobs, customer service, and even Doctor related jobs could be extinct.

    When you say it like that… “We’ve got maybe another election cycle or two.” it’s quite alarming to think about. Time has gone so fast since Obama took office.

    I also love you advice. Invest and become a starving artist. Creativity is definitely the one advantage we have over machines.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading, Graham! The elections come up faster and faster, don’t they? It’s almost a decade and a decade seems like a long time, but a two-term presidency doesn’t seem so long anymore.

      Like

  2. Haha – love this! Maybe when the computers take over, they will be benevolent overlords the same way people are to their dogs 🙂

    In the meantime, I agree – this creativity thing we’ve got going on is a bit tough to replicate.

    That said, the forays into computer-generated music might start to edge in there: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/innovations/wp/2016/06/06/googles-computers-are-creating-songs-making-music-may-never-be-the-same/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Google! I should’ve known! At least it seems to be billed as a tool to enhance our own creativity.

      Besides, I just don’t know if computers could ever really match what we have:

      1) Not to get all metaphysical, but I personally think creativity comes from our spiritual side.

      2) Forgetting that, though, humans have the uncanny ability to process information and seize on the most minute and insignificant detail of all the noise in life to “create” something much bigger and better and more beautiful than the original crumb. If computers do start to match us in creativity, I’m confident they won’t surpass our inherent ability. Plus, there are plenty of “crumbs” to go around.

      3) More practically, if humans continue to be the only buyers of art ( anything creative), we’ll always pay a premium to know that there is “soul” behind it. Maybe the first couple “pieces” that computers create will be sought-after, but that will quickly lose its novelty.

      It’s such an interesting thought-experiment to have. As a philosophy minor I feel especially qualified to speak on the subject 😉

      Like

      • I honestly think #3 is all we’re going to have going for us in the long term.
        Have you read waitbutwhy.com’s few posts about AI, consciousness etc…? I think it may change your mind a bit once again (and possibly terrify the living daylights out of you as well) 🙂

        If you think of how fast an AI can actually program a song or create a piece of art, the possibilties are literally endless so just on the monkeys/typewriters thing they’ll be able to come up with something any human can. I guess that may be the downfall. Who then decides what is good or not? There will be too much sh!t to go through to get to what people might like (although maybe then there can be machine learning to determine what people like).

        Still, a very interesting subject to think about. Cheers!

        Liked by 1 person

      • #3 is definitely our firewall.

        That’s why I put the urinal out there. Even if a computer algorithm had all the knowledge of all of art and human history and what humans consider art up to the Dadists, I can’t really imagine it coming up with urinal=art. But even if “challenge norms at the exact right time” is part of the equation it uses and the urinal option came up in one of its countless calculations, I think it would have still been dismissed with the computer predicting only a “16% success rate” or whatever. And even if the computer did decide to risk it and spit the urinal out as its final product, it would still have to go out and convince humans that it (a soulless silicone bundle) even knows what art is. It would at least have to have a human by its side for credibility. So, it would fail finally (to your point) on the perception challenge of #3.

        And to your other point, there are endless possibilities for art out there. An infinite well. Enough for humans AND “sentient” machines. That’s the rest of the good news. As long as art is not based solely on perfect beauty, perfect sound, perfect whatever (in art flaws are often valued much more) humans will continue to have the advantage.

        I, for one, believe AI will only serve to enhance human creativity not replace it. If AI makes an advancement in art based on just the sheer number of things it can try, that’s good for us. We don’t have to try all those things and can just build off what AI has come up with and give it the “soul” in needs 😉

        I haven’t read them yet, but I’ll definitely have to read those posts from waitbutwhy. I love these kinds of conversations. Thanks for reading!

        Thanks for reading!

        Adam

        Like

      • Thanks for the long and thoughtful reply! Sorry haven’t got much more to add but thought I’d let you know that I followed to see what you’d say, as more often than not I think our replies as bloggers never get read (by the original commenter at least) but I for one always tend to follow the comments to read them.

        Cheers

        Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome, Thanks for the follow-up comment! I’m definitely guilty of not following up when I comment on other blogs, so I don’t blame anyone else. There are just so many great blogs out there to comment on and follow it’s hard to keep up 😉 Thanks again!

        Like

  3. Investing is great advice – particularly in your imagination! Thanks for this important post. It’s good to think about our future, and how we can maintain our competitive edge by leveraging our creativity as you suggest!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post! Luckily for me I plan to invest a ton in the future, so I was relieved to see you telling us to do so. Hope everything with you is going good! In case you haven’t been following up, recently I transitioned my blog into a website! Come check it out, and I would love to get your professional feedback: http://www.grittyambition.com

    Tyler

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Man, two sci-fi movie references in one post…I dig this.

    When I think of “AI doomsday” I always think of the T2 when the Terminator is explaining to John Connor, in perfectly simple terms: “All stealth bombers are upgraded with Cyberdyne computers, becoming fully unmanned. Afterwards, they fly with a perfect operational record. The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes online August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug.”

    Granted, I believe that we are far off from that, but it really is amazing how quickly machines are beginning to learn and adapt. They become perfect.

    But, as you stated, I believe what makes art is the fact that we do not view the world in binary. Humans aren’t perfect and that is where creativity comes from.

    As much as I love stats and numbers, fortunately you still have to make some decision’s with that biological engine surrounded by your rib cage…especially decision’s on how to nurture your creativity.

    Great post! Love getting to nerd out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great point on imperfection! Creativity lives in the infinite shades of gray computers can’t see. If I can get a bit more philosophical and even metaphysical. Because I think creativity lives outside the lines of “if this then that” logical thought, it can only come from some other-worldly, other-dimensional source. Call it “the soul” or whatever. I believe human creativity is “proof” (or as close to proof as we can get) that humans are much more than a bag of meat and bones just processing information.

      Whoa! You got me to go real deep. Love the comment. Thanks, Hoosier!

      Like

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