30 Comments

Love this! This is why we need to get generative AI into the hands of day-to-day employees. No business leader or technology team could envisage the wide variety of use cases or generative AI or the specific examples you share here. We need people experimenting with generative AI day-to-day to identify where it can be the most use and then feed that up into a wider transformation agenda.

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Boredom in work should be eliminated, although I think extracting boredom completely out of life would be a shame. To quote Walter Benjamin: "If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away."

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Nice. But one boring task is proof reading. Here's what ChatGPT-4 suggested about this post. #3 is amusing (it knows of Bing in 2021 though maybe saying Bing Chat would have been clearer). It found 2 errors and made some reasonable suggestions.

The passage is largely well-written and there are very few grammatical mistakes. However, there are a couple of minor errors and one sentence that could be rewritten for clarity.

"We developed automatic can soldering equiment, mining machines, and automatic temperature controls than transformed all of these jobs."

Correction: "We developed automatic can soldering equipment, mining machines, and automatic temperature controls that transformed all of these jobs."

"As you will note, the prompts are incomprehensible (“caffinol developing”?) but that doesn’t matter, I can just use them as-is."

Suggestion for clarity: "As you will note, the prompts are incomprehensible (for instance, “caffinol developing”), but that doesn’t matter because I can just use them as-is."

"If that doesn’t work, I can even hand-draw a terrible Microsoft Paint draft of what I am thinking of, upload it to Bing, and ask it to turn it into a better image."

Correction: In the context, "Bing" probably refers to a different AI tool or software. Bing is primarily a web search engine, it does not have a feature to turn hand-drawn drafts into better images (as of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021). Please revise to reference the correct software or AI tool.

"Thus, if we want to think about the first work we truly give to AIs, maybe we should start the way every other automation wave has started: with the tedious, (mentally) dangerous, and repetitive."

Suggestion for clarity: "Thus, if we want to think about the first tasks we truly delegate to AIs, maybe we should start the way every other automation wave has started: with tasks that are tedious, mentally taxing, and repetitive."

"One small study of undergraduates found that 66% of men and a quarter of of women choose to painfully shock themselves rather than sit quietly with nothing to do for 15 minutes."

Correction: "One small study of undergraduates found that 66% of men and a quarter of women chose to painfully shock themselves rather than sit quietly with nothing to do for 15 minutes."

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Shhhh. Without boring jobs, we'd have never had Einstein working on his theory of relativity.

Without the boring late night hours at work, I'd never be able to write my books.

There is something to be said for boring tedious work.

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I am conducting workshops for leaders on EXACTLY these kinds of boring and also manual tasks.

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Great article. I'm a professor and will be giving a couple of lectures on generative AI in the fall. This article gave me some useful ideas for content to include. Thanks!

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Thanks for this article! It’s very timely as I have been thinking a lot about the terminology of AI, specifically the word AUTOMATION. I think it is misleading. When it comes to MidJourney or ChatGPT there is 0 automation happening. Neither of these tools operate automatically or independently of a human. What I believe the better term is to use is AUGMENTATION. In these examples you got greater personal enjoyment, increased your creativity, and scaled your efforts but nothing was completely automated. I couldn’t replace your job with a bot but you are more productive. I get more output for the salary I am paying you. Thanks augmentation!

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"And in a set of preregistered studies of 7,000 people, boredom was linked to sadism. For example, 18% of bored people killed worms when given a chance (only 2% of non-bored people did), and bored parents and soldiers both act more sadistically. Boredom is dangerous, in its own way."

If this generalises, we're screwed. I seem to remember reading some recent research that concludes children aren't getting bored enough so they don't develop the skills they need to cope with boredom. I think there's more research along the lines that boredom allows the mind to rest and develop. So no boredom = no well adjusted individuals.

If we "reductio ad absurdum" does this mean our civilisation deteriorates into a society of sadists?

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The automating-away of repetitive and dangerous tasks is a fine objective, but without a way to ensure workers gain some of the productivity and wealth benefits, all of this ultimately just benefits corporations and employers.

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I use the tools to rewrite my blurbs and my 149 character Amazon ad hooks. I have not used to write a story.

I tried using AI to build for me a line drawing of a 1880s buckboard with miserable results.

I can only blame operator error.

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Ethan, I agree with your assertion 100% that we *should* try to automate the most tedious tasks, so we can work hand-in-hand with our personal assistants to get more valuable work done, while only sacrificing the tedium.

Unfortunately for us, our society values the shorter term economic implications more so than longer term "what's good for humanity" stuff, so it's on people like us to push back against this all-too-tempting impulse to drive AI tools based on immediate cost-savings.

Well done.

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Ethan, I agree with your perspective. Imho, AI is not just about automation; it's a catalyst that enhances our capabilities, both in terms of volume and richness of output. As I delve deeper into AI, I'm not only honing my skills but also redefining my workflow, using AI for tasks I hadn't previously considered.

However, a significant portion of the population remains disconnected from these AI tools for various reasons - perceived lack of skills, skepticism about AI's efficacy, limited computer access, employer restrictions, and more. My primary concern is that these barriers are contributing to a widening digital divide.

In my view, it's crucial that we actively reach out and educate those without access to these tools about their potential benefits. We must strive to demystify AI, making it more accessible and less intimidating, ensuring that the benefits of AI are not just confined to a privileged few, but are available to all.

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Rarely, have I received an email that I’ve subscribed to, where I stop and read the full post no matter where I’m at. ChatGPT has allowed me so much extra time to get other work done.

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100%. To me, generative AI and automation are cousins.

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Yep. When I'm working with leadership teams, they want to know the hot new AI tool. I encourage them to start with the 2-3 things in their day that they would like to near-automate. ChatGPT is usually pretty great at that, and it has a profound impact on their workday.

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