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#200: All Tomorrow’s Parties - by Drew Austin:

Contemporary life is characterized less by “post-scarcity conditions” than by the contrast between digital post-scarcity and stubbornly persistent physical scarcity. This poses an ongoing existential crisis for humans: The sources of unlimited abundance narrow our potential contributions to society but still don’t fulfill our bodily needs. Man cannot live on bread alone, nor information. We find ourselves stalled out on the middle tiers of Maslow’s pyramid, with our value as consumers increasing relative to our value as producers (this shift is even imprinted on our global cities, where consumption inexorably crowds out production). AI, with its perceived threat to automate a vast array of jobs, seems like the apotheosis of post-scarcity existence, but in reality it just highlights how the dumb human component of so much work is that work’s essential and enduring quality. For years, it has seemed obvious to me that corporate PowerPoint decks should be the first thing we automate, but there’s one major obstacle: The purpose of a PowerPoint deck is to prove that a human knew enough about a topic to make the deck. If an AI found itself making a PowerPoint presentation to another AI, they would just shake hands (figuratively) and agree to nix the whole effort. One popular critique of crypto is that its necessarily costly proof of work amounts to a wasteful energy burn, but maybe we’re just offended when such proof of work isn’t left to us humans. And maybe even parties aren’t so much work as proof of work—fundamentally impossible to automate, and only as good as the people who attend.

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