What Are Thought Workers?
What is a thought worker? A thought worker is someone who uses their brain to perform tasks that require creativity, analysis, judgment, or problem-solving. They are the ones who design products, write code, manage projects, teach students, or advise clients. They are the ones who make decisions that shape the future of their organizations and society.
The American thought worker is a term that describes a class of professionals who rely on their cognitive skills and creativity to perform tasks such as writing, designing, teaching, researching, and so on. The term was coined by Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist, who argued that the thought workers are the driving force of the new economy and culture in the 21st century. The historical and social context of the American thought worker can be traced back to the emergence of the knowledge economy and the rise of the creative class in the late 20th century. The knowledge economy is based on the production and distribution of information and innovation, rather than physical goods and services. The creative class is composed of people who use their creativity as a key factor of economic success, such as artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and media professionals. The American thought worker is influenced by various factors, such as globalization, technology, education, diversity, and urbanization. These factors shape the values, lifestyles, preferences, and challenges of the thought workers, who often seek flexibility, autonomy, collaboration, and meaning in their work. The American thought worker also faces competition, uncertainty, instability, and inequality in the rapidly changing world. The American thought worker is a significant and influential segment of the American society, culture, and politics. They contribute to the economic growth, social progress, and cultural innovation of the nation. They also reflect the diversity, complexity, and dynamism of the American identity and experience.
The 21st century witnessed the rise and dominance of the American thought workers: those who use their cognitive skills to create, analyze, and innovate. They were the ones who drove the economy, the culture, and the politics of the world’s superpower. But as we enter the 22nd century, we face a new challenge: the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) that can perform many of the tasks that thought workers do, and often better, faster, and cheaper. What will be the role and value of human thought workers in a world where machines can reason and plan? How will they adapt and compete? And what will be the implications for society and democracy?
But what if I told you that their days are numbered? That soon, they will be outsmarted and outperformed by machines that can think faster, better, and cheaper than them? That the pace of innovation in artificial intelligence and automation is so rapid that it will render most human thought workers obsolete in no time?
This is not a dystopian fantasy. This is a realistic scenario based on current trends and developments. I will show you how and why the American thought worker is doomed to decline and disappear. I will also propose some possible solutions and alternatives for those who want to survive and thrive in the new era of automated decision making.
In the previous section, we have outlined the historical and social context of the American thought worker, a class of professionals who rely on their cognitive skills and creativity to perform tasks such as writing, designing, teaching, researching, and so on. In this section, we will examine the looming threat that these workers face from the rapid development and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as automated decision systems, neural networks, and natural language processing. We will argue that these technologies are not only capable of replicating and surpassing the human performance in many domains of thought work, but also pose serious challenges to the human dignity, autonomy, and well-being of the thought workers.
One of the main advantages of AI technologies is that they can operate at a much higher speed, accuracy, and efficiency than humans. For example, an automated decision system can process a large amount of data and generate optimal solutions in a matter of seconds, while a human decision maker may need hours or days to analyze the same data and weigh the pros and cons of different options. A neural network can learn from millions of examples and produce novel and creative outputs in various fields, such as art, music, literature, and science, while a human artist or scientist may struggle to come up with original and innovative ideas. A natural language processing system can understand and generate natural language texts in multiple languages and formats, while a human writer or translator may face difficulties in expressing themselves clearly and effectively.
Another advantage of AI technologies is that they do not suffer from the limitations and vulnerabilities that humans have. For example, an AI system does not need to sleep, eat, rest, or take breaks. It can work continuously without getting tired or bored. An AI system does not get sick, injured, or infected. It can withstand harsh environments and conditions that humans cannot. An AI system does not have emotions, feelings, or biases. It can perform its tasks objectively and rationally without being influenced by personal preferences or prejudices. An AI system does not have family, friends, or social obligations. It does not need to care for its children, spouse, parents, or pets. It does not need to interact with other humans or form meaningful relationships.
These advantages make AI technologies highly attractive and competitive for employers who seek to maximize their productivity and profitability. By replacing human thought workers with AI systems, employers can reduce their labor costs, increase their output quality and quantity, and avoid the risks and liabilities associated with human errors and misconducts. Moreover, employers can exert more control and power over their AI workers than their human workers. They can monitor their performance closely and adjust their parameters as needed. They can also dispose of them easily when they become obsolete or malfunctioning.
However, these advantages come at a high price for the human thought workers who are displaced by AI technologies. Not only do they lose their jobs and incomes, but also their identities and purposes. Thought work is not just a means of earning a living for many people; it is also a source of meaning and fulfillment in their lives. By engaging in thought work, people can express their talents and passions, develop their skills and knowledge, contribute to society and culture, and achieve recognition and respect from others. When these opportunities are taken away by AI technologies, people may feel worthless and hopeless. They may suffer from depression, anxiety, loneliness
Maybe It’ll Be Better
The future of the American thought worker is uncertain, but also full of possibilities. As automation and artificial intelligence take over more and more tasks, many people will find themselves with more time and freedom to pursue their passions and interests. This could lead to a new wave of innovation and creativity, as humans explore new domains and challenges that machines cannot solve. History shows us that idle workers are not necessarily unproductive workers. Some of the greatest achievements of humanity, such as writing, art, philosophy, and science, were born out of leisure and curiosity, not necessity and survival. Perhaps the thought workers of today will become the pioneers and visionaries of tomorrow, launching us into new frontiers of knowledge and discovery. What will humans do when they are “set free” from work? What will they seek out and find? We can only imagine, but we can also hope for a bright future where AI helps humanity and where the thought worker is freed up to be the creative genius they are and to create new and exciting things for humans to enjoy.