Utopia for Pastry Chefs
[Also posted on Substack — subscribe for more]
It’s become a semi-annual ritual at this point.
OpenAI or DeepMind comes out with a new ML breakthrough like AlphaFold or ChatGPT and everyone across the internet starts freaking out about either how the robots are coming to take our jobs or how epic our hotels on Mars will be once AI solves all our problems.
I’m adding my two cents to say yes and no to both of those outcomes.
On one hand, these new AI systems will almost definitely displace millions (and possibly even billions) of jobs over the coming decades. But is that really something that should be met with an outcry of despair? I’m guessing you don’t love your job, and even if you do, I’m certain there are parts of it that make you feel as if you’re just putting up with drudgery. This is exactly what AI is poised to replace, so either your job will be rendered obsolete, or the parts that fill you with dread will be automated away, leaving you only with the parts that make you feel energized and fulfilled.
On the other hand, I don’t want to go to Mars. Please stop telling me about how AI is going to cure all ills and be able to deliver us into a new age of peace and prosperity. AI alone can’t accomplish this, nor will it if we continue with the attitudes and culture of the present.
The healthiest and most productive way forward as far as I can tell is to celebrate the wins and celebrate the losses: acknowledge that AI will indeed liberate us from a ton of needless work, while at the same time, cherishing the aspects of our lives that cannot yet be automated. In doing so, we may come to realize that AI is built to be in service of preserving and protecting our most precious resource: time.
Humans aren’t generally very good at handling free time. Many of us crave structure and organization to impose order in our daily lives, and when we see a day on our Google Calendars with nothing on it, many of us experience a mild panic. We waste countless hours in front of screens, and we sometimes forget to plan our weekends such that we find ourselves home alone on a Saturday night wondering where everyone else has gone.
But this is a mindset that we can change. We can learn to feel more comfortable with free time, luxuriating in the leisure, choosing to spend our newfound free time doing the things that AI can’t do on our behalf.
I see the coming AI revolution as a chance at utopia: a world in which most basic needs are met and we can live our lives in harmony and abundance. In a world where much of the drudgery and scarcity has been lifted from us, what will we choose to do with our time?
We can all become artists. We can plan more fiestas and take more siestas. We can play music in the streets, dance ten times more often, experiment and tinker with new inventions, design games for each other, hike and surf and travel and open our eyes to the majesty of nature, and so much more. Once we acculturate to our newfound freedom, we can seize every day and make the most of it, without concern for the lower parts of Maslow’s hierarchy.
In utopia, I personally plan on becoming a pastry chef, and my vision is to open up a little booth where I can spend hours crafting dainty little pastries and hand feeding them for free to the people who come by.
Just imagine, four hours spent on a single macaron, only to be consumed in one moment by a delighted passerby. The smile on their face, the scrumptious squeal of joy, the crumbs falling off the corners of their mouths. It’s a pleasure just to imagine.
That’s the utopia we can build, and that’s the utopia I’m aiming for.
What will you do in utopia?