It’s Funny How (A Day in the Life)

It’s funny how, when I start my weekends, I feel a little explosion of possibility, followed immediately by an avalanche of tasks. It buries me, but fortunately I have learned how to prepare myself with the right equipment to help me dig my way out. It’s funny how productivity hacking , when it first became big thing on the internet, spawned so much attention that one of the original editors of a productivity-focused organisation actually shut it down. He mentioned, on his way out the door as he shut off the lights, that reading and writing about productivity, in the wrong contexts, can be beside the point.

It’s funny how many people talk on the internet about how they feel about what’s happening in the world. I get it, and I don’t begrudge them. I spend a lot of time talking about my own predictions for the future, as I have been doing recently. But there’s something about writing for an audience that can shift the writing. It’s funny how a perfectly well-reasoned post for yourself, or for a small group of friends, can morph into a completely different tone when you’re writing a Think Piece on LinkedIn. I understand the motivation, of course. Increasingly, your ability to share big, important words on the internet can lead to getting a job, which means being able to have health insurance and afford a home, which means being able to support your family and live out your dreams. It’s funny how writing Hot Takes can directly apply to the quality of your kids’ kindergarten education, but here we are.

A few days ago I wrote the following pithy post. For context, I barely ever share on LinkedIn, so that might have helped me with the algorithm, or hurt me with the algorithm, or maybe it was neutral. (It’s funny how we don’t even know anymore, which in my view should remind ourselves to write for ourselves, but that sounds reckless when popular writing is what is going to indirect pay for the mortgage and the down payment on the cabin getaway in Alaska.) I wrote:

> I don't mean for this to be a judgy sick burn, even if that's how it comes off. Some people on LinkedIn say "AI won't take your job, but a person using AI will." Others LinkedIn are writing walls of text about how AI hype is out of control. But you know who's really going to take your job? Someone quietly working on their craft, away from LinkedIn essays.

It’s funny how my phrasing accidentally made it seem like I’m anti AI-hype, because a few of the responses seemed to take that tack. I left my own opinions purposely vague, because I wasn’t talking about AI but rather how both sides writing walls of text (AI is great, AI is hype) are missing the point. Debating over what guitar is best at the pub is fine. But it’s funny how some of the most accomplished musicians don’t seem to get sucked into those debates as often as others.

If someone pinned me down on my opinions about the “person with an AI taking your job” point of view, I’d say the quote perfectly sums up how I feel. It’s funny that we’re in such a pick-a-side mentality on the internet that there are seemingly three teams for anything:

  • People whose straw man opponent is a Luddite
  • People whose straw man opponent is a hype beast
  • People whose straw man opponent is an extremist loudmouth

I think that just about covers it, yes? Take NFTs: some people thought there was something there, and smirked at people who just didn’t get it. Some people thought they were extraordinarily stupid, and resented people pushing them. And some people weren’t content to agree or disagree, they hated the whole premise.

It’s funny, thinking back to the school grounds when I was growing up, how you could sense what kind of people these kids would become. More than once, I’d be in a debate with a friend and someone would chime in “Oh my god, WHO CARES?” For some people, that argument is airtight. For some people, people caring about a sporting event, or getting into a religious war between Mac/Windows, or having an opinion on the royal family is a tremendous waste of time and energy. So they take it amongst themselves to explain how base, how uncouth, how primitive everyone is being. I don’t know that they see the irony. It’s funny watching someone care very, very deeply about how people feel things too deeply.

Will AI take jobs? Of course it will. Will it change jobs? Of course it will. But that’s what’s so good about the line “Someone using AI will take your job.” There were print designers before Illustrator and Photoshop. There are print designers after Illustrator and Photoshop. But if you don’t know those tools, it’s highly unlikely that you’re getting health insurance as a print designer. There are millions of engineers in the world who learned their craft before GitHub Copilot and other AI tools. There will be millions of engineers in the world (I hope) well into the future. But there will come a point, and it’s closer than some think, where you won’t be a working career engineer without the skills for using AI. You can tinker on code for your personal projects, but you won’t be getting health insurance through it. It’s funny how my certainty here makes me a hype beast. It doesn’t take a weatherman to spot the weather.

It’s funny how I couldn’t write that, though. Not in that context, not with those people watching. I’m sitting here on a Saturday, a long list of things to do, and I know the way out is through. I’m avalanched in, but I’m comfortable in my homemade igloo, musing about the world outside. I’ll make my way through. No matter how it feels at the time, I always do.