Boris Smus

interaction engineering

Analogies from the industrial revolution

Several centuries after the industrial revolution, machines still can't do all physical things humans can, not even by a long shot. Drawing a masterwork, singing an aria, playing a musical instrument, manipulating a soft object, cutting hair, taking care of the sick are all examples of human-only tasks. The industrial revolution gave machines the ability to do crude, physically demanding work at scale, but it did not address all of physicality.

Just like the industrial revolution did not automate all aspects of physical work, there is good reason to believe that the AI revolution will not solve all aspects of intellectual work. Where the line will be drawn remains to be seen, but I would bet that one aspect of human cognition that isn't really at risk from any immediate AI-based disruption are creative pursuits. Many well respected professions like doctor, lawyer, and engineer have both a rote component that lends itself easily to automation, and a creative one. Some examples:

  • Curing patients boils down to the application of known heuristics to triage specific cases, but if you are a MD-PhD studying a new area of medicine or tackling a new disease, it's a much more creative and speculative process.

  • The legal profession involves finding the right precedents relevant to the case at hand, but articulating a convincing argument or deciding how to work out a new situation where there are now laws yet? Creativity.

  • Designing a marketing webpage for a clothing brand is pretty formulaic. But inventing way of solving a problem using new technology? Totally creative.