man pushing trolley with big boxes
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

Once upon a time, people would use horses to transport goods (and people) quickly. The rise of motor engines in trains and cars and trucks did not mean that delivery drivers were no longer needed: it meant that people were now much more productive at transportation and deliveries than ever before.

In 2023, machine learning and large language models offers a similar promise of increased productivity and the higher wages that are normally associated with higher productivity. We can see that in the parallels of the past: a truck driver of the 1990s earned significantly more money on average (in significantly more comfortable surroundings!) than a carriage driver of the 1890s, despite no longer needing to care and manage horses.

Because people were now better at delivering things due to improved tools, productivity improved, the price fell, and demand increased.

I think the same thing will generally happen with the rise of artificial intelligence – for those people who take advantage of the new and improved tools.

Two excellent articles by Tyler Cowen discuss the rise of artificial intelligence[efn_note]I don’t think these large language models are truly artificially intelligent. But the difference between large language models and genuine intelligence is a nuanced subtlety that isn’t really relevant here.[/efn_note] and what it means for the future:

To be clear, I am not an AI sensationalist. I don’t think it will lead to mass unemployment, much less the “Skynet goes live” scenario and the resulting destruction of the world. I do think it will prove to be an enduring competitive and learning advantage for the people and institutions able to make use of it.

AI Is Improving Faster Than Most Humans Realize

It seems likely that in jobs dominated by computer keyboards, GPT (and other equivalent large language models) are likely to be useful tools to increase productivity. These tools – like motor engines before them – are likely to significantly benefit people who are able to use them to improve their work.

At the same time, despite the benefits of Brexit in mitigating the desires of big business to flood our labour market with high labour force migration, there remains significant global competition for work:

Most of the pressure on the wages and job security of American software programmers now comes from eager workers in India and Bangladesh. Hardly anyone saw this challenge coming. When those Bangladeshis were learning programming skills and clever ways to sell their services over the Internet, they never issued a challenge or threw down a gauntlet. And it is not just programmers, factory workers, and call center employees who face new challengers. Invisible competition now touches even those who make their living with paintbrushes and shovels. 

The New Invisible Competitors

Michael Josem is a long-term consumer advocate, most prominently as a global leader in combating fraud in the online gambling industry. He was in part the inspiration for the 20th Century Fox Movie, Runner Runner, starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.

Josem has over a decade of experience as a senior business leader working across various high-tech and online industries, and takes action to build a better community. His primary volunteer roles include service for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Graih, the homelessness charity.