Robots won’t take our jobs…or will they? As a letterpress artist in the modern world it’s part of my job to consider this dystopia. There's been lots of talk about artificial intelligence (AI) replacing our careers in the near future and while some say it’s all talk, others already see it happening. As for me, I think the cards are in our hands.
If we allow it to, AI will not only replace manufacturing but also human-interaction-based jobs. The impact that replacing humans with technology has had on specific communities is colossal, just look at Detroit. Many have lost their jobs to automation and the numbers are still growing.
Fighting the Tech Wave
Of course, the automakers are not the only ones who have been hit with this tidal wave of tech, even baristas are having to size up to latte-making machinery. In my corner, the hands-on printing industry has been completely altered by the automation of technology. Letterpress printing has seen its heyday, trust me, I’m well aware. Still, I'll be the first to tell you that my job and yours will be safe as long as we embrace two things: community and technology.
#1 - Embracing Community
Community will always be more important than anything you have in your bank account. When you don't have money or health left the only thing you do have is the people around you. This is your lifeblood, and as long as we continue to foster and nurture these relationships, small businesses will continue to thrive. Making your workplace accessible to your community allows you to tell others your story, it adds passion to your product and shows people why buying locally and handcrafted is the key to beating the simulation. If they don't want to live in a homogenized, strip-mall-nightmare, they will understand why they should buy locally and handmade.
Quality isn’t about pressing a button on your computer it’s about an actual human making the product by hand. It's not about pressing print on your screen, it’s about actually creating a print by hand. It’s the beauty in the overlap of machinery and human interaction, the saltiness of the ink, the beauty of the occasional variation of pigments. It’s a fine line of intentional and unintentional. It’s the luxury of years of craftsmanship dedicated to your product. It's every latte having a different amount of milk, every grocery clerk having another story to tell, it's knowing that the hubcap on your front left tire was replaced by a man with four kids. It's about embracing the unknown that comes with another human perfecting their craft. That’s what makes life interesting, not a robot programmed to make everything identical.
#2 - Embracing Technology
Don’t get me wrong, I'm no Luddite, I actually like using technology. But I like using it simply as a tool, not as a crutch or drug. I find my own time to rage against the machine but what I’ve learned is that we have to embrace it to ultimately subvert it.
If we don’t embrace technology, we won’t know enough about the negative aspects that come along with it. The more we know about the tech surrounding us, they more power we have to overthrow its destruction. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, right?
Artists vs. AI
Quite frankly, we should be worried about our jobs in the future. Automation, AI, and robotics will gradually replace large sectors of employment. However, if we uphold a good understanding of this giant that is seamlessly taking over our world, the control will stay in our hands. As long as we consistently value human interaction, intelligence, hard work, and passion over robot brains, we’ll hold on to something more important than our jobs, we’ll hold onto our humanity.