According to David Graeber, an American anthropologist, in his book ‘Bullshit Jobs: A Theory’, a bullshit job is “a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.”
He also contends that over half of societal work is pointless, and becomes psychologically destructive when paired with a work ethic that associates work with self-worth.
This was a nice read at The Ken as usual. Though, this article ends with essentially saying ChatGPT isn’t that smart, which while it is true, is just an an odd take, because its a mistake to see ChatGPT as being in a competition with humans. Plus it gets a bit existential about poop in the end.
I’d rather have liked reading about the impact of Large Language Models on current white collar work, roles, and jobs.
Anyway, heres my take.
Things have barely begun to take shape. ChatGPT is still in free beta – its a baby thats just started talking, and yet we’re discussing it as if its a tax-paying working adult. We haven’t seen anything yet.
In the next 6-12 months, ChatGPT will soon be linked to all kinds of other digital systems in the Cloud, enabling Companies to (cheaply) create services at a click of a button to serve us as customers. Services that will knock our socks off, even in this jaded age of tech fatigue.
Imagine if Zomato had a speaking virtual order-taker to help you choose something to eat when you cant make up your mind? And remembers next time that you already had Chinese last time so why not try this new Andhra place near you today?
Or if MakeMyTrip had a virtual booking agent? All those complex interactions made as easy as a chat with an infinitely patient virtual agent.
Imagine if you had a custom version of amazon.com just for you, and virtual sales person helping you? A virtual designer making shopping suggestions walking with you down a virtual aisle as you scroll, sharing opinions about what you see?
For any company, Imagine sending fully customised email newsletters per customer, based on purchase patterns, profiles etc, but unlike todays customised emailers — these have a chatty verbal style, maybe with a custom autogenerated video linked, or a personalised autogenerated microsite to show content just for them.
The AI in Microsoft Office will likely turn your text slides into multiple visually stunning PPT designs for you to choose from, in seconds.
Or heres a Digital Marketers wet dream — A data driven marketing prompt will generate a personalised letter per customer, which is turned into a spoken voice recording which is turned into a visual video with a digital avatar speaking the message, along with images, infographbics and a personal message, sent on email instantly. Bonus points for doing this on a Video call – live.
This can all (probably) happen by next year. The productivity additions are limited only by imagination. All the tech is already mostly in place i think.
Lets catch our breath, and keep some things in mind
1. Technology changing things is not new – It happened in Design 25 years ago. ‘Pasting’ studios which had rooms dedicated to them at agencies where people had careers from the 50s, vanished in agencies over a period of 5 years, with the introduction of just cheaper desktop HP/Epsom printers.
Computers still need humans to plan UI/UX, even if they use Ai to be more productive in writing code, as is happening with GitHub CoPilot for even advanced innovative senior coders.
We are surrounded by fake images made in Photoshop, but we give our full attention and appreciation to photos by humans on Instagram.
The really thoughtful stuff like editorials of value will still be planned and put together by a human, even if they use AI to write paras or build a structure, or brainstorm ideas. Filler content was anyway being written by junior staff. – so yes, some bumps in hiring will happen there.
Grown-up ChatGPT will simply blend into our work lives like all technology does.
2. In the communication space, technology usually adds products and services, it doesnt always replace – radio still exists, newspapers still exist, theatre still exists, and yet we have Podcasts, Online publications, and everyone is making videos at home today adn starting Youtube channels.
3. Technology will just shift the market status quo – Just like apps and mobiles enabled social media Influencers, and so created a new marketing method around trust and relationships with audiences, away from the dominance of the earlier marketing model of relationships with whoever owns the broadcast channel, and had the biggest budgets.
What will happen broadly?
ChatGPT enabled tools will change things by its sheer volume of output, instant productivity, and following of detailed instructions to the letter.
Mass market services will be Digital analytics, targeting and custom automated content for each segment. There will be money there, and will be a frenzy of agencies on thin margins.
Basic graphic design will soon be dead, as will basic web design, basic video creation – anything that is about software skills is going to be shaken up, because when software understands verbal instructions,you need an artists’ mind, not labours’ hands.
And yes, like the Ken article says, at the upper end, people who can pay, will switch to private curated content, experiences and relationship driven activities.