And now, argues tech writer Paris Marx, “new technologies like AI are framed as offering us various forms of empowerment and liberation: We’ll be able to work more productively, spend less time doing our chores, and anything we want will be a click or tap away. But those promises never paint an accurate picture of how that tech is transforming the world around us or the true cost of those supposed benefits.”
Not only does new tech often result in more work for people but it also introduces additional kinds of work. Ian Bogost anticipates that AI-powered chatbots such as ChatGPT “will impose new regimes of labor and management atop the labor required to carry out the supposedly labor-saving effort.” Just as computers and software advances have “allowed, and even required, workers to take on tasks that might otherwise have been carried out by specialists as their full-time job,” citing procurement and accounting software as examples, Bogst predicts the “inevitable bureaucratization” of AI.
Simply put, the AI productivity narrative is a lie. It holds that by automating tasks, AI will make them more efficient and make us, in turn, more productive. This will free us for more meaningful tasks or for leisurely pursuits such as yoga, painting, or volunteerism, promoting human flourishing and well-being. But if history is any guide, this outcome is highly unlikely, save for a privileged elite. More likely, the rich will only get richer.
Because it’s not technology that can liberate us. To preserve and promote meaningful autonomy in the face of these AI advancements, we must look to our social, political, and economic systems and policies. As Derek Thompson observes in The Atlantic, “Technology only frees people from work if the boss—or the government, or the economic system—allows it.” To allege otherwise is technosolutionism, plain and simple.