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  • Joseph Clark

AI and Neo-Luddism

At the turn of the 19th century, textile workers, afraid for their job security, rebelled against the new technologies of their time. This involved the violent destruction of the machines that threatened their livelihoods. Following the supposed destruction of two stocking frames by the almost mythical figure Ned Ludd, this group was hence called “Luddites”. A term that has been transformed by globalists to describe the ignorant and poor of society with a fear of progress and technology. As the field of artificial intelligence continues to mature, this sentiment against technology is seeing a revival.


All the jobs, considered to be “untouchable” by computers only 5 years ago, are now under threat due to AI growing to become consistently better, faster, and more accessible. The newest version of Stable Diffusion (2.1) was released very recently, this allows for photorealistic faces, high-resolution images, and sometimes artwork indistinguishable from the works of a human. The days of small-scale artwork commissioned by individuals may be completely over. Demand for normal art may be left to the wealthy, who have the financial freedom to appreciate the “human character” in their entertainment.


As for sectors in engineering and mathematics, artificial intelligence will still require human guidance for a few years to come. But breakthrough designs and the super-human analysis of AI have already surpassed the human element. A key example in the past few years would be AlphaFold, a piece of AI software built to predict protein structure, a notoriously difficult-to-compute scenario. More recently, ChatGPT comes closer to general artificial intelligence, capable of writing code, describing philosophy, or giving therapeutic advice.


The open source direction of the parent company to Stable Diffusion, stability.ai, means that anyone with a computer has full access to all of this potential. Investors remain confident, regardless of this open direction, fronting over $100m in funding for the company last October. AI is growing and will be available for all in the very near future.


AI could pave the way to the Keynesian utopia of voluntary work, lives consumed with art as we spend our days in constant leisure funded by an explosion in productivity that makes human work obsolete. On the other hand, the rewards of society may continually flow to the top, in which nobody ever truly benefits from new technologies except the ultra-wealthy. The future is exciting and guessing as to what jobs we may hold 50 years from now is near impossible.


And so the question changes from “Will AI improve to the point it replaces people?” to instead asking what actions we should take to ensure the best possible future. Thankfully, there are areas still untouched by machines. For now, no AI has the legal right to display an entrepreneurial spirit or shake another person's hand in a meeting. As seen historically it is always the unskilled, and lower-paid work, that is under threat of replacement the fastest. Continually being open to training and education, to adapt to a fast-moving job landscape, is going to be the only way to maintain relevant skills.


To use one final historical precedent, before fretting over current events, one could look at the collapse of the mining industry in the UK throughout the 70s. As the mines were shut down, the service sector exploded, and entire communities disappeared, few are truly sure as to the causes, and what could have been done to prevent it. Fewer still can argue what was to blame, between the government, new technologies, or a maturing economy. That same process of events is unravelling again today. Once again, the workforce must either adapt or die.

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