15 years ago I felt like the world was improving at record speeds because of technological advances. And I was a part of it. Not that I did anything particularly influential, but I identified with the tech sector and it felt like “my people” were freeing the world of the old, evil corporations that were rife with nepotism and corruption, helping it turn more meritocratic and equal. I felt genuinely optimistic about where the world was headed and I was always excited about products launches, software or hardware.
Today they makes me anxious.
Not only because the concept of “startups” no longer feels like the breath of fresh air it used to, but more like a parody of itself. As Paul Graham became wealthy it seems he also became convinced that the only thing that motivates anyone is wealth, sounding more and more like those corporatists of yesteryear that were happy with the status quo. But while I find that disappointing, it’s not what this post is about. I am more uneasy about the technology itself, given the speed we are advancing at.
Two products have affected me in particular: DALL-E-2 and GitHub Copilot. They are both mind blowing to me and have given me this sinking feeling of technology moving not only really fast, but faster than I thought possible. And while still fun, I am starting to feel that the tech industry that I used to be proud of belonging to is like having a pet tiger that was cute (and a bit cool) as a cub but is suddenly becoming hard to control and I can’t really do anything about it.
I guess I am experiencing a threat similar to what so many professions before mine must have felt as technological advances made them irrelevant. Maybe I simply belong on /r/leopardsatemyface. Now, software development is not going to disappear any time soon. Maybe not in 15 years or maybe even in my lifetime. But just like the two rocks in the short film Das Rad (embedded above — if you haven’t, I highly recommend watching it, it’s just 8 minutes long), it feels like we’re past a sort of tipping point of hyperbolic growth. The only thing I am certain of now is that I have no idea what will happen.
I am not particularly worried about my own financial well being. I think I will be fine. I do worry slightly about my sense of self. Creativity is a big part of what I feel defines me, and if that loses all value then it will surely affect me. Then, there are obviously a number of Black Mirror-esque dystopias that don’t seem all that unrealistic any more. But mostly I struggle with how to guide my son when he grows up. In that regard I feel truly lost. What will be a viable career in 20 years? Will the concept of a “career” even make sense by then? I have no idea, and I am uncomfortable with that.