Each November, writers around the world make a commitment. They commit to writing a novel within a month. It’s called NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writer’s Month.
Since 2013, software developers have also been making a commitment. They’ve committed to generating a novel within a month. It’s called NaNoGenMo – National Novel Generation Month.
The novels these programmers create – if you can call them novels – can tell us a lot about the future of work.
How well can AI write a novel? (Not at all, really.) The novels that programmers generate are all over the board. One “novel” was just Moby Dick, written backwards. Another “novel” was called Paradissssse Lossssst. It was a reproduction of John Milton’s epic poem, but with each “s” in the poem replaced with a varying number of other s’s.
But, some programmers take the task a little more seriously. They train AI models and see what they come up with. One such model is called GPT-2. GPT-2 was once considered too dangerous to release to the public, because you could supposedly generate subversive content en-masse, and do some pretty nefarious things. Kind of like [Russia did with a farm of human-generated content around the 2016 election].
And what is this advanced AI model able to generate? So far, nothing impressive. Programmer and author of [aiweirdness.com] Janelle Shane tweeted, “Struggling with crafting the first sentence of your novel? Be comforted by the fact that AI is struggling even more.”
The sentence this AI model generated for Janelle: “I was playing with my dog, Mark the brown Labrador, and I had forgotten that I was also playing with a dead man.” Not exactly Tolstoy.
The follow up to GPT-2 is now out, so we’ll see this year what kind of novel GPT-3 can generate, but if Janelle Shane’s experiments so far are any indication, humans will still have the edge. She asked GPT-3 how many eyes a horse had. It kept telling her: [four].
Your edge as a human lies in your creativity According to Kai-Fu Lee, author of AI Superpowers, forty- to fifty-percent of jobs will be replaced by AI and automation within the next couple of decades. But humans won’t be replaced across the board. It’s the creativity- and strategy-based jobs that will be the most secure.
If your job is an “optimization-based” job, you might want to start reinventing yourself. If your primary work is maximizing a tax refund, calculating an insurance premium, or even diagnosing an illness, your job involves so-called “narrow tasks.” These tasks are already being automated, or soon will be automated.
You could type out 50,000 nonsense words in about a day. A computer can generate 50,000 words faster than you can blink. But, you could write a novel in a month. A computer can’t write a novel at all.
Which means your edge as a human is not in typing the words faster. Your edge as a human is in thinking the thoughts behind the words.
This doesn’t just apply to writing novels. If you’re an entrepreneur building a world-changing startup or a social worker helping a family navigate taking care of a sick loved-one, your creativity matters. No AI will be able to do what you do for a very long time – if ever.
So when a computer can do in the blink of an eye something that would take us all day, and when our creativity is the one thing keeping us relevant, that has powerful implications on how we get things done.
Time management isn’t built for creative work Remember from episode 226 when we learned about [Frederick Taylor]? How he stood next to a worker with a stopwatch and timed every action and broke down all of those actions into a series of steps? He optimized time as a “production unit.”
But creativity doesn’t work like stacking bricks or moving chunks of iron. Remember there are three big realities about creativity that make it incomp