Two years ago, I pampered myself and bought a Tesla Model 3. It was the first time in 12 years I got myself a car. I had bought 2 cars for the kids and 2 for my wife in that span. But mine was on last legs, so i got rid of it. I did not get Full Self Driving but it comes with Autopilot. This is like a super cruise control, and it does what cruise control does, as well as keeps the car in the lane, around curves etc.
The first time I used it I was like wow; this does a really excellent job. Now there are some quirks, you need to keep your hands on the wheel, and sometimes (like on-ramps etc.) it struggles. But in stop and go traffic and on 440 on Staten Island it is the most wonderful thing. It takes the stress out of rush hour driving for sure. But then I started using it anytime I was driving on roads, it was easy. I started to think, though I am losing my driving skills.
Then my mind started thinking about other things automated and will are those skills gone and or reduced. I mentioned that I work in technology and of course when you build applications part of the goal is to automate some manual tasks. The knowledge workers who did those tasks in spreadsheets or on paper now do not have to. When those workers leave and new people replace them there is a lack of knowledge of the original process, and if the system goes down, they might not be able to do it manually.
For any task that somehow gets automated do we lose those skills and knowledge. For example, how many people know how to change their oil? How many people could navigate with a physical map? Develop and Print Photos from a film camera? Set the clock on a VCR? What is your best friend’s phone number? Can you calculate with a slide rule? Find a book in the library using the card catalog? These are all skills that I did years ago that well are no longer needed and no longer used.
I have not ice skated in a year nor picked up a tennis racquet in longer. I played both sports a lot, to the point my muscle memory took over. I do know if I start (and try to get back on the ice) that it will kick in after a little while of rust. As the years go by the more rust there is, sitting at the piano things do not come as easy as it did when I play often. And things that I have not done for 10 or so years are going to struggle. The piano, skating and tennis may come back when my brain kicks in, but some mental things may not.
Why do I mention this? Just like calculators have killed math, spreadsheet have killed the ledger I am wondering what the latest ‘AI’ (I put it in quotes cause its truly not AI) tools will kill off. What if people stopped writing meeting notes (expecting a tool to listen in and give notes) and it is missing some key point though it did not sound like one. What if all developers trained themselves on programming languages via a GPT? Would we lose developer creativity? Would everyone learn the same way, and it may not be the best way to code? What are the skills that the latest round of technology is going to replace and is it an improvement?
This is not to scare anyone from using these tools. For coding I find it incredibly helpful to write test cases, remind me of an obscure library I used once every 4-5 years, and even ask to refactor to see alternatives to what I wrote. I do not use it yet for this blog, as it thinks with the crowd of wisdom (a blog post in draft) thus what it writes is average. I would rather point back to my previous assessment of the next digital divide but adding now a caveat. We need to keep our skills in certain areas, or we risk not being able to know if output of the AI is not missing something.
In previous writings I have mentioned the classic statement perfection is the enemy of good. Is the output from any of these tools good enough? If you do not know the answer or have used these tools so often for tasks you lose the skill to even know, we have found a problem. If you are using it for knowledge for something you never did, it is different than if you know it for something that you used to do, and now leverage it. Let us assume everything you are asking is the latter. The more you use it (aka people writing using AI for the full writing when normally they used to write themselves) do they lose the skill of writing? If they are not reading it, correcting it, or rewriting it then the skills will deteriorate.
I am and awful drawer, photoshoper (is that a word) or Microsoft Paint editor. I do love taking photos (those who know me see my pictures from the ferry) but I am not a good editor. Thus, asking a tool to edit or create an image for me I will use. But a skillset I know I need to use and want to continue to learn the tools can only be an assistant. In fact, as I am writing this, I am watching a class in Artificial Intelligence with Python to continue to build my knowledge. I know if I lose the skills, I could be unemployed.
What skills will I lose? That is not the right question, the question should be what skill I should make sure I keep and work on so that I do not lose it. Which means even if complex calculations at work people should understand how to do manually, I need to sit at the piano more often, I need to work at friendship/relationships, I need to work at being a father, I need to work at communication, I need to work at my health and much more. I will use the tools at my disposal but ensure when I use them, I understand in which case I am doing so. And I challenge you to look at what skills you lost, what skills you need and make the right choices. As the subtitle of the blog states, it is getting better every day. And probably being a good driver is one of them also.
This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free. I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them
This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.