avatarAshraff Hathibelagal


Are Humans Becoming Obsolete?

I’m not a pessimist, but things don’t look good for most of us

Photo by Joao Viegas on Unsplash

Most kids these days aspire to be social media influencers when they grow up. I think that’s good because trying to become a doctor or a programmer is not a good idea anymore. Considering the rate at which artificial intelligence is improving, the world is going to be a very different place a decade or so later. That’s, of course, obvious to most of us. But what about next year? What’s the job market going to look like in December 2024?

Let’s start by analyzing the current situation. The Crunchbase Tech Layoffs Tracker is a good place to start. According to it, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Meta, together, laid off around 50,000 employees. I’m going to assume most of these people were highly-skilled and highly-educated individuals. Okay, maybe not in the case of Amazon, but we’re doing some napkin math here. If we consider all other tech companies, the number jumps to 200,000. That’s a large number.

A lot of digital products are at risk too. The company that owns Stack Overflow reduced its headcount by 28%, and the cause is generative AI, suggested a paper published earlier this year. Most programmers have switched to GitHub Copilot and ChatGPT. Interacting with large language models is far easier — and better for your mental health — than interacting with humans, or so it seems.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are very few digital products you can launch today that can’t be outcompeted by ChatGPT, Gemini, or even some random version of LLaMa. You want to create a paid sentiment analysis product? LLMs can do that for free. You want to start a language-learning website? LLMs can teach languages for free, and probably better than you can. You want to teach history? Again, LLMs can do that for free. I hope you get the idea; there are thousands of such examples.

As a product creator, I keep asking myself, “Could ChatGPT do that if I come up with a well-crafted prompt?” The answer is usually “yes.”

Let’s move on to artists. The video game art industry in China has seen a 70% drop in the number of illustrator jobs, and yet the overall productivity has gone up 40x. The jobs that do exist pay about a tenth of the wages they used to last year. Many artists fear their entire profession is coming to an end.

Digital artists used to have many income streams earlier. Take Etsy, for example. Being able to sell paintings, cute stickers, and designs that could be printed on T-shirts, mugs, and pillow covers was quite profitable once upon a time. Now, with AI artists flooding Etsy with thousands of very cheap, instantly generated paintings and designs, the actual artists are lost. There’s no way they can compete with AI artists that bundle a thousand T-shirt designs for $4. I’m not exaggerating. And it’s sad to see that AI-generated designs are often way better than human-made ones.

Once the image-generation models get good at generating text, we can expect to see more job losses in other industries, like the already struggling greeting card industry. That is likely to happen next year.

I hate to say it, but writers and storytellers are severely affected too. A lot of freelance writers have lost their jobs to AI. And to make matters worse, honest writers now have to contend with clients accusing them of submitting AI-generated text!

A lot of people seem to think that AI-generated content is easy to spot. That is only partially true. Of course, inexperienced, lazy prompt engineers are going to generate mediocre content with their LLMs. But there are many who have spent hundreds of hours improving their prompts. If you think the content they can generate is still mediocre, well, think again.

Did you know that merely adding the words “save the cat beats style” to your ChatGPT prompt has a huge impact on the quality of stories generated?

As a writer myself, lately, I’ve been trying to follow the ostrich approach. I’m sticking my head in the sand and just ignoring the latest developments in this domain. I can’t think of a better strategy.

Given all this data, I can’t help but be pessimistic about the job market in 2024. The AI models are only going to improve and disrupt other industries.

I think more and more people trying to make a living via social media platforms, such as YouTubers and TikTok influencers, are going to start losing their income to AI-generated influencers.

That’s not speculation. It’s happening already. Neuro-sama, an AI-powered VTuber has over 450,000 subscribers on Twitch and around 185,000 subscribers on YouTube. Aitana Lopez, an AI-generated Instagram influencer, has over 240,000 followers on the platform. These are numbers most humans can only dream of. These virtual influencers are not only extremely profitable to their developers but also remarkably easy to clone with slight changes in appearances. Imagine having hordes of influencers whose looks and habits are tailored to perfectly match your preferences!

I, personally, am probably going back to school next year to become an archeologist. Being a programmer today is akin to being a blacksmith during the advent of automobiles.

Artificial Intelligence
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