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wonderpup

Impact of Technology on Creative work

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So the story goes that while technology will erode the employment prospects of the great unwashed who work in routine jobs easily targeted by automation 'creative' types-like me- will be safe because our work is not so easily done by computers.

Superficially this is true- I don't expect a computer to be churning out concept art for games or movies anytime soon for example. But I've recently realised that I too can feel the hot breath of innovation on my neck as I contemplate my next metamorphosis into god knows what in the hope of staying afloat. My problem is that the skillset I have is gradually being eroded by ever more powerful software that effectively automates much of the skill right out of the job.

Take for example human figure drawing. It used to be a skilled task to draw a convincing human figure from the imagination, say for a concept drawing or a storyboard. A lot of time needed to be invested in learning things like anatomy and proportion and how to deal with issues like limb foreshortening in 3d space ect.

Today I just fire up a 3D programme that contains a posable human figure, spend a few minutes posing and lighting my virtual model, render out a quick JPEG image and cut and paste the figure into my scene. Ok- it's not quite that simple, I still have to work out costume details, textures ect- but for that I have photoshop, google image search and cut and paste!

To be fair some artisitic talent is still required to get good results using these methods but the level of skill involved is far less than when I used to start with a blank sheet of paper and some marker pens. As a result I now find that the ranks of my competitors are swollen by people armed with far less experience- or even ability- than me but they have a lot of impressive software that allows them to produce results that often look very nice indeed.

My point is not to put these people down-in the end it's the result that counts, not how hard it was to get there- and I make full use of the technology myself so I can hardly complain that others do the same. But I do find it interesting that even in a field in which one might expect the impact of technology to be minimal it's really not. It turns out that while 'creativity' might be impervious to automation, craftsmanship is not- and it's the craftsmanship that turns out to be the defining factor in terms of being a 'marketable' creative.

The reason for this is both subtle and yet obvious. Take, for instance, a concept design of some sort for a game. How can we tell just how 'creative' this design actually is? Is there an objective measure of creativity that can be applied? No- there really isn't. What actually happens in reality is that the 'creative' value assigned to a design is inextricably entanged with the visual impact of that design on the page or the screen. So in practice it's not really possible to seperate out the 'craft' aspect of the presentation- how pretty it looks, how well finished it appears in terms of it's visual presence- and it's virtue as a creative idea.

The consequence  is that as technology erodes the craftmanship required to produce that final output the barriers to entry for being 'creative' are also eroded, because in practice there is no real way for any evaluator or consumer to disentangle their emotional response to a well crafted artifact from their judgement as to it's conceptual value.

In short, the notion that 'creatives' will be safe from technological innovation is mostly wishful thinking - to the degree that any creative concept can only be presented via the indirect medium of the senses the ability of technology to empower nearly anyone with the means to produce powerful and convincing presentations of their ideas or compositions means that 'creativity' is becoming democratised and will in the future no longer be limited to those whose craft skills allowed them to claim special status as 'creative' people.

From my personal point of view this is really bad news as I now find myself inhabiting a slowly melting iceberg of 'specialness' that is being constantly invaded by technologically enhanced competitors who increasingly view my skillset as an  anachronism. I know of 'artists' who can barely draw but can- with the aid of their computers- produce visually impressive outputs without the need for such antique abilites as figure drawing or perspective- their software does all that for them.

But leaving aside my personal angst I wrote this post because it strikes me that if someone such as myself who works in the supposedly 'safe' creative industries is feeling the pressure of technological innovation how long can it be before most of us will be in a similar position? It's not so much that I fear a robot will steal my job, it's more that a robot-in the form of very smart software- will allow a lot more people to do my job which means that my 'market value'- that is 'scarcity value'- will decline as the skills I possess no longer represent the market advantage they once did.

So it's not only robots we need to be worrying about, it's also cyborgs, in the form of technology wielding humans who can simply bypass the skills barriers we erect around ourselves by deploying ever more intelligent software that empowers them to do the things we do- but without needing the same skillsets to do it.

Edited by wonderpup

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It's the intangibles though - if anyone can do something then why would I pay money for it? Don't know much about visual design but it's hard to believe that some tax-crediter can get bored with their nail bar,  have a dabble at a computerised graphic production, and the result looks equally as attractive as your n years of experience. They could easily replace the bar staff at my local with a vending machine but then I wouldn't want to go any more.

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The effect is the reduction in the need for man hours to complete a set of tasks. 

In my example, I'm working in a small startup. We're using automation, outsourcing and advanced software (as well as rapid prototyping, 3D printing, CNCs etc..) in a way that allows a small team to develop, prototype and bring to market complex products involving mechanical enclosures, embedded electronics, photonics as well as software. It means we can bring to market products similar (and even superior) to that produced by incumbent manufacturers at a small fraction of the cost because we don't have the massive overheads, and more importantly we don't have 100+ people all "putting their bit in" to justify their "job" in the company and project... That hobbles the large incumbents not only with increased complexity for the sake of complexity, but ultimately it retards their time to market and ability to be cost competitive with small modern companies that don't have "human baggage" slowing them, costing them and unnecessarily complicating their products.

The real beauty of automation is not a mythical 100% replacement of humans... but replacing 90% of humans in a job. Like accounting before it, there are still accountants about ... but book keepers, payroll men and the like are almost extinct due to automation. 

automated checkouts are now everywhere. Aircraft and cars are plugged into diagnostic systems reducing labour requirement massively... the one area in the UK that still seems to operate in an almost medieval fashion is construction... that's overdue some major darwinian extinction.

Edited by hayder

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There will be a turn to something akin to the arts and crafts movement as people move away from mass produced, cheap, throw-away furnishings and art etc.

Look at the up-cycling movement, its like the arts and crafts movement for people with little real skill but a good eye.

The folks with real money will not want things made by 3D printers, robots, cyborgs, etc they will be paying big money for things made by artisans.

With regard to construction, have a look what the 'posh' folk are buying to park their cars and horses in, a clue, its not built from bricks, concrete panels or anything else you can get from a builders merchant.

With regard to art, look what picasso did with the minimal number of strokes/lines, would you pay the same for something produced by a shitty graphics package, I think not.

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Technology gives us more tools to make our life easier. The end product is roughly the same, I.e a car, a film etc. The tools just enable us to enhance the end product and make it quicker with our 'slaves'

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Orwell's 1984 has songwriting and novel writing machines in it. Probably not far off that reality. Half the crap pop music can be written by sliding blocks of repetitive white into place with a few samples vocals.

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So wonderpup, your job is to design art for video games - a job that only recently came into being thanks to technological progress - and yet you are constantly banging on about technology destroying jobs?

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From my personal point of view this is really bad news as I now find myself inhabiting a slowly melting iceberg of 'specialness' that is being constantly invaded by technologically enhanced competitors who increasingly view my skillset as an  anachronism. I know of 'artists' who can barely draw but can- with the aid of their computers- produce visually impressive outputs without the need for such antique abilites as figure drawing or perspective- their software does all that for them.

This has been happening with graphic design, logo design and website design.  All of these disciplines have been made obsolete for the "95%" (those who could have made a living from these job descriptions 10 years ago, no longer can they do so).  There will be a "5%" who specialise and dig deeper into those disciplines and survive by being the best-of-the-best and offering highly specialised skills.  However, I'm sure your point is that automation is eliminating job opportunities for the vast majority of people.  By definition, not everyone can be part of the 5%.  Sure, the answer someone will reply with is "just make it happen, be part of the 5%".  That's not the point.  The point is that these disciplines USED to be lucrative to a wide array of people.  Now, no longer.  Now they are saturated with template sellers who themselves struggle because their marketplace is saturated.  Low barrier to entry, very thin slice of the pie.  Having said that, that might be enough for an Indian guy who only needs $3 a day to run a business and live.   

I'm actually diversifying away from the digital disciplines slowly but surely.  Not that I won't use the internet as a tool for my business in the future, but I can't see myself working in the digital fields in 5 years' time.

Edited by canbuywontbuy

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50 minutes ago, Dorkins said:

So wonderpup, your job is to design art for video games - a job that only recently came into being thanks to technological progress - and yet you are constantly banging on about technology destroying jobs?

:lol:

Just bring on a more advanced future, no matter there will be bumps along the way.  

Wonderpup, find ways to be special and compete, maybe.

If it's going to drive down wages so much, then maybe the HPIers and BTLers will have to take a hit. :P

At every advancement stage in the past it seems advancement has also created other associated jobs.

If we can get to the stage where ever more advanced technology can make life much easier... abundance and plenty.... that is where we want to be, imo.

We've only just begun imo.  We're still living in a backwards society of scarcity and stupidity (imo).

Quote

 

Living in an abundant society without scarcity means that people are free to spend all their time anyway they want to. People with creative urges or passions have a maximum degree of freedom to pursue these wherever they may lead them. Or, one can pursue other interests, like play or having fun.

We live in an age in which there is a widespread fear of the future. The idea of progress is being questioned or attacked openly by pre-modernists and postmodernists. Defending the future, crusading for Progress, ought to be a primary concern and goal for Objectivists. 

There is material abundance on the personal and consumer-related levels, since everyone can have their nanomachines produce whatever they want. Instantly and endlessly reproducible material objects and resources have no market value or function as they would in a scarcity economy.

What does have value?

Recognition of one's virtues, skills and achievements. That is the currency of post-industrial civilization. Such recognition is "scarce" because it must be earned, therefore it becomes the currency in a materially abundant culture.

 

Life is precious.  

RIP genius Monty Oum - A self-taught animator - (June 22, 1981 – February 1, 2015)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Oum

Do you want to stop progress/advancement wonderpup?

Is there some special point in time where you wish we could 'stop progress'.   I just get the impression you would be super-happy as that Prisoner guy (no.6) and love living in that Village, provided you had home/food, with no yearning to escape to a more modern life.

Actually reminds me of End of Eternity (Asimov) where 'Eternals' (Big Egos on a Mission to 'Protect' the 'Innocents of Mankind' (who can't be trusted to make their own decisions' from Big Bad World, simply because first few attempts at space-travel had gone wrong) and kept blocking anything that could lead to the advancement of space-travel, and in the process lived in some grey formal no-fun control environment.   A punchier full story similar to his short story of 1938, 'Trends'.

On 2/14/2017 at 10:41 PM, wonderpup said:

In the long run it might be a disaster for you too- who are you going to be selling to in a world of low paid insecure consumers?

The game of driving down wages is ultimately zero sum if wages and demand are two sides of the same coin. What happens when those delivery vans drive themselves? At first glance this looks great- even cheaper deliveries. But the same technology that makes that self driving van possible won't stop there- it will eat a lot of other jobs too- and yes this will also drive down wages still further as people compete for the jobs that are left- but at what point do these desperate people stop buying whatever it is you are selling?

Whenever I see Bezos at Amazon boasting about how automated their process will soon become it's kind of funny- a retailer celebrating the elimination of consumers is a rather odd spectacle- like a dinosuur cheering the arrival of the comet that will lead to it's own extinction.

:rolleyes:

Quote

 

 He finished writing Ad Astra on December 21, 1938 - later changed to Trends by editor.  9th story submitted Astounding Science Fiction. [The best Sci-Fi magazine]

(1938)...the first story I wrote for which I remember even after all this time the exact circumstances of the initiating inspiration..  That fall, I applied and received a National Youth Administration job designed to help me through college.  I received fifteen dollars a month in return for a few hours of typing.... for a sociologist who was writing a book on the subject of social resistance to technological innovation.  This included everything from the resistance of the early Mesopotamian priesthood to the dissemination of the knowledge of reading and writing among the general population, down to objections to the airplane by those who said heavier-than-air flight was impossible.  

Naturally it occurred to me that a story might be written in which social resistance to space flight might play a small part.   ...For the first time, Campbell did more than simply send a rejection.  On December 29, I received a letter asking me to come in for a conference to discuss the story in detail.  [...]  It turned out what he liked in the story was the social resistance to space flight.   [...]revise to meet editorial specifications. [...]It was my first sale to Campbell after seven months of trying and eight consecutive rejections. - Isaac Asimov

 

 

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Wonderpup:  Have you ever thought about what you would 'invent' to survive and prosper if you fell through a time portal and found yourself in Medieval England during the 11th Century?

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7 hours ago, ChewingGrass said:

There will be a turn to something akin to the arts and crafts movement as people move away from mass produced, cheap, throw-away furnishings and art etc.

Look at the up-cycling movement, its like the arts and crafts movement for people with little real skill but a good eye.

The folks with real money will not want things made by 3D printers, robots, cyborgs, etc they will be paying big money for things made by artisans.

With regard to construction, have a look what the 'posh' folk are buying to park their cars and horses in, a clue, its not built from bricks, concrete panels or anything else you can get from a builders merchant.

With regard to art, look what picasso did with the minimal number of strokes/lines, would you pay the same for something produced by a shitty graphics package, I think not.

This, mass market stuff will not be as desired.....bespoke, handmade, skills such as woodwork, sculpture, craftwork, homemade bread, artists or actors....etc. anything only a person can create with own hands or body such as sport or musicians, gifted people live to watch....always a big demand for, very skillful, very therapeutic, very original, very aesthetic.......mass produced stuff not so sort after......cheap and nasty.;)

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15 minutes ago, winkie said:

This, mass market stuff will not be as desired.....bespoke, handmade, skills such as woodwork, sculpture, craftwork, homemade bread, artists or actors....etc. anything only a person can create with own hands or body such as sport or musicians, gifted people live to watch....always a big demand for, very skillful, very therapeutic, very original, very aesthetic.......mass produced stuff not so sort after......cheap and nasty.;)

Go to a farmer's market full of bespoke upcycled knick-knacks and I guarantee you that almost everybody there at that market will have a house full of mass-produced products.  The market already decided that if the price is right, they'll buy mass-produced stuff. Convenience wins out.  Price wins out. 

Edited by canbuywontbuy

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1 hour ago, Venger said:

:lol:

Just bring on a more advanced future, no matter there will be bumps along the way.  

Wonderpup, find ways to be special and compete, maybe.

If it's going to drive down wages so much, then maybe the HPIers and BTLers will have to take a hit. :P

At every advancement stage in the past it seems advancement has also created other associated jobs.

Wonderpup is making an observation.  I am witnessing this too, and have been for years.  I know what's coming.  Lots of industries that were lucrative just 10 years ago are now all but dead in the water.  That's not complaining - it's just an observation.  In fact, I'm glad I can see these things coming as I'm planning my career path to take these changes into account. 

The "special" argument is irrelevant to the point being made: that the number of aggregate jobs is decreasing in specific industries because of automation.  It's not a personal argument, it's looking at the wider picture.

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3 minutes ago, canbuywontbuy said:

Go to a farmer's market full of bespoke upcycled knick-knacks and I guarantee you that almost everybody there at that market will have a house full of mass-produced products.  The market already decided that if the price is right, they'll buy mass-produced stuff. Convenience wins out.  Price wins out. 

Talking more about what will be better valued in the future, not saying not valued now, always be a place for throw away cheap and convenient.......the people with money to spend will be looking for talent, originality, low supply, not easy to find, word gets around fast with technology, but very few people have the skill, a bot has not been programmed to create it so can't make or do it.......less is more.;)

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1 hour ago, canbuywontbuy said:

Go to a farmer's market full of bespoke upcycled knick-knacks and I guarantee you that almost everybody there at that market will have a house full of mass-produced products.  The market already decided that if the price is right, they'll buy mass-produced stuff. Convenience wins out.  Price wins out. 

+1

Loft conversions going on all around me at the moment. The only truely skilled and creative bit involved in these jobs are the built in cupboards necessary because of restricted space and tight angles. Flat pack foreign made furniture is convenient , cheap and i'm pretty sure will be the main purchase . Ikea must be having a field day.

Acknowledge that other skills are involved but are mostly not design orientated and of a bespoke nature.

 

 

Most furniture is flat pack and easy to get up stairs.

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1 hour ago, winkie said:

Talking more about what will be better valued in the future, not saying not valued now, always be a place for throw away cheap and convenient.......the people with money to spend will be looking for talent, originality, low supply, not easy to find, word gets around fast with technology, but very few people have the skill, a bot has not been programmed to create it so can't make or do it.......less is more.;)

You make the assumption that mass-produced MUST mean "throw away" - why that assumption? Also, why does bespoke automatically mean high quality? Mass produced products go through more rigorous testing.  I'm talking about high-street / major retailer goods here.

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Doing things cheaply, making cheap spaces to live for more people is not progress.....even IKEA quality is not as good as quality as when it first opened its stores in this country, goes for many shops and the goods they sell..FACT quality has deteriorated, volume is less, materials inferior......not built to last, so does not last as long....... repeat purchase is good isn't?......good for who?;)

Very often cheap is made because if not cheap there would not be a market for it.....the rich would not buy it and the rest could not buy it........

Edited by winkie

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We all stand in the shoulders of giants but it feels terrifying when you can see the thing you pride yourself on which earns your living becoming obsolete.

Could have had this conversation with workers from the stone age in one form or another. Who knows what the next step is going to be? Only thing for sure is you can't stop it so need to try and adapt.

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I went to my daughter's GCSE options evening last night. Looking at the curriculum book for media studies I searched for internet advertising. It had one page, no mention of social media. So already 5 years out of date. Someone doing this and going into a job in the media will already be 5 years out of date, although perhaps au fait with the history of media.

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You mention craftsmanship - a slightly different thing, and one that's been eroded away for years to the point of being practically non-existant, with the wonderful result of having hideous lumps of concrete where once something would've been made out of stone (a good chunk of why I despise anyone who cheers on new roads etc.)

11 hours ago, hayder said:

The real beauty of automation is not a mythical 100% replacement of humans... but replacing 90% of humans in a job. Like accounting before it, there are still accountants about ... but book keepers, payroll men and the like are almost extinct due to automation.

And that's good because? Can't think of any reason. Sure, it saves your company a bit of money, at least until everyone does it, they all have to cut their profits to compete, and you end up in the same position as before but with fewer people, less human contact, and the remaining ones being even more cogs in an impersonal machine. All downsides, no upsides. Automation only has any benefit if it's doing things people are unable to do or really don't want to. The rest of the time it's bloody stupid.

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36 minutes ago, Riedquat said:

You mention craftsmanship - a slightly different thing, and one that's been eroded away for years to the point of being practically non-existant, with the wonderful result of having hideous lumps of concrete where once something would've been made out of stone (a good chunk of why I despise anyone who cheers on new roads etc.)

And that's good because? Can't think of any reason. Sure, it saves your company a bit of money, at least until everyone does it, they all have to cut their profits to compete, and you end up in the same position as before but with fewer people, less human contact, and the remaining ones being even more cogs in an impersonal machine. All downsides, no upsides. Automation only has any benefit if it's doing things people are unable to do or really don't want to. The rest of the time it's bloody stupid.

Well accoutanty / pay roll is a very specialised area.

Running payroll used to cost a fortune. Now its a lot cheaper.

Accoutns used to be a PITA. Now they are a lot smoother.

Accountancy is numbers. Numbers are digital. Digital = digitisation.

 

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7 minutes ago, spyguy said:

Well accoutanty / pay roll is a very specialised area.

Running payroll used to cost a fortune. Now its a lot cheaper.

Accoutns used to be a PITA. Now they are a lot smoother.

Accountancy is numbers. Numbers are digital. Digital = digitisation.

Yet it got done. If it cost everyone a lot and now it costs no-one a lot then there's no net benefit to any of those companies, computerising it hasn't given any of them an advantage over the others (probably did in the short term for the second wave adopters, on the assumption that the first wave sort of worked but didn't give as much advantage due to the effort of working it up to something really practical).

Numbers can be analogue too, and computers are incapable of handling numbers like 1/3 (although they can get close enough and round at the right times for it to rarely ever be a problem), not that that's really relevent.

Edited by Riedquat

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1 minute ago, Riedquat said:

Yet it got done. If it cost everyone a lot and now it costs no-one a lot then there's no net benefit to any of those companies, computerising it hasn't given any of them an advantage over the others (probably did in the short term for the second wave adopters, on the assumption that the first wave sort of worked but didn't give as much advantage due to the effort of working it up to something really practical).

A bit like saying that moving from horses to cars benefited no company as they all drive vans now.

Or calculators.

Or electric motors.

Pay roll accounts swallowed up a huge amount of time and effort and was very error prone.

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