Disruption is Exploitation
Elon had it figured out. Then Israeli PM shows up.
As the Millennials Era matures and the concrete hardens, we contemplate how the animating idea of disruption gave birth to the writing hydra of GenAI. Millennials, the progeny of Boomers, now fly their GenAI flag with the same fervor they sang their Disruption Anthem.
The theme here is exploitation.
In its essence, disruption is exploitive. From the beginning, its primary targets were low income earners—taxi drivers, hotel workers, bicycle messengers. GenAI follows suit, ruthlessly exploiting the work of artists, musicians, writers, and repurposing it for a relentless and ultimately meaningless content churn.
Why we tolerate either is no mystery. Humans are a greedy bunch. Millennials coded that greed into the core of our cultural operating system.
Woe to those who object.
The cracks are showing. Drivers and riders are fleeing back to taxis, AirBnB is taken over by mega-hosts who offer worse service and dirtier rooms than a four-hour motel on the interstate.
But a loyal legion of corporate shills are still out there publishing their click content apologetics for Silicon Valley shenanigans, always with false empathy and empty promises. This is our future they proclaim, never bothering to ask if this is the best future. Like we have no choice but to meekly succumb to their choices for our future. But we do. And many are questioning the shilly propaganda being seeded across their beloved social media.
In an article in The Atlantic I found an unlikely ally to my growing sense of betrayal: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He swung by for a visit with no less a tech bro utopian than Elon Musk, and participated in a forum hosted on Twitter. Also present for this discussion were MIT scientist Max Tegmark and Greg Brockman, the president of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT and the image generator DALL-E. You can’t get more future than that.
I only know Netanyahu from the news, but if the news is hundreds of thousands of people in the streets protesting his policies, my gut is I’m not going to like the guy.
Still, Netanyahu has a recognizable Jewish darkness to his worldview. He is a hardened cynic. When faced with the golly gee tech bro defense of GenAI he brought his skeptic’s eye to bear.
“How do we inject a measure of responsibility and ethics into this exponentially changing development?”
Musk answered in his best free-speech absolutism. “Just as Einstein didn’t expect his work in physics to lead to nuclear weapons, we need to be cautious that even with the best of intentions … we could create something bad. That is one of the possible outcomes.”
Yes, indeed. We could create something bad.
But will that stop the exploitation opportunity that animates every corner of the fabled Silicon Country Club?
Brockman was quick to mount the pulpit and preach that AI could produce a world where people don’t have to work!
But Netanyahu lives in the real world.
“You have these trillion-dollar [AI] companies that are produced overnight, and they concentrate enormous wealth and power with a smaller and smaller number of people. That will create a bigger and bigger distance between the haves and the have-nots, and that’s another thing that causes tremendous instability in our world. And I don’t know if you have an idea of how you overcome that?”
The answer, prime minister, is you don’t overcome that. In fact, exploitation is the point. Aim your disruption at the weakest of us and reap the greatest wealth.
Instead of purposing our technology magic to create a better world, we set it to create a great wealth sucking robot who wanders over our heads and sucks away our wealth to feed billionaires.
The Atlantic wrapped up its story. “‘Musk matter-of-factly explained that the “very positive scenario of AI” is “actually in a lot of ways a description of heaven,” where “you can have whatever you want, you don’t need to work, you have no obligations, any illness you have can be cured,” and death is “a choice.” Netanyahu incredulously retorted, “You want this world?’”
Trust an old, hard-core rightist Jew to get to the essence of it.
I was at a dinner recently where the host said to me she’s sorry for her grandchildren. “The world is so watered down.”
Such a simple way to put it and so true. Since the IT Department crawled out of the basement and took over the world, things have become ‘watered down.’ Every aspect of our lives is less.
Our art is less.
Our music is less.
Even our baseball, held hostage by analytic departments, is less. Instinct is out and data is in.
Instinct is what makes us human. Intuition is what moves us forward. And you don’t need a spreadsheet for either.
But this is heresy. You get burned at the digital stake for these thoughts. But don’t worry, even stake burning is watered down these days.
The exploitive instincts of the Tech Bro cartel have had their way with us.
But have they?
Do you really believe art will be replaced by robots?
To think something like that is to misunderstand creativity and its purpose.
Of course, ‘creativity’ in Watered-Down World has been replaced by a new word, ‘content.’ Exploiting content is okay. It FEELS better than saying you’re going to rip off literature so robots can make you feel like Tolstoy.