The responsibility of AI titans in a post-work society.

Advocates of AI (and yes, before the pedants chime in, I'm aware that LLMs are not technically AI, but for the purposes of popular debate and perception – we'll go with it) will tell you that automation will create new jobs and generate broad societal value such that it will countermand the coming societal shifts in employment and labour. And that may well be the case. We may be fortunate enough that an unexpected windfall will soften our landing and take the sting out of our automated future. But I don't believe we can or should count on that magically happening.

I'm not arguing against AI. I'm not asking OpenAI to shutter ChatGPT or suggesting we shun its proponents and users. I am asking for a degree of ownership. For the creators and evangelists of AI to dedicate time and resources to envisioning and building the post-AI world beyond the boundaries of their own profit margins.

Invention must always be accompanied by a degree of responsibility – surely, if nothing else, we learned that from the development of the atomic bomb, from Los Alamos, from Hiroshima, from Nagasaki. The pursuit of AI is arguably a technological goal, at least on par with splitting the atom. And what we do with that technology, how we apply it, and how we think about humanity in the wake of it is as much a responsibility of its creators as it is of its users, the governments who oversee it and the activists who speak out about it.

If you stand to make billions of dollars from automation and AI, it is not an undue burden to ask that you dedicate some of your resources to defining and creating the glittering utopia you refer to in your pitch decks. We cannot continue down a path guided solely by profit, ignoring the societal ramifications.

The titans of AI - the Musks, the Altmanns, the Pichais - should pause in their relentless drive toward domination and attend to the world they seem intent on leaving behind. What does human dignity look like in a future bereft of work? How do we structure meaning in a society predicated on efficiency over empathy? We must broaden the vision beyond the next funding round, the next product launch, and the next earnings call.

Those who reap disproportionate rewards from automating away human jobs owe it to the rest of us to create structures and systems that allow all people to thrive and imagine a world not based on cold technological marvels but on compassion. A world where all of humanity has the chance to self-actualise, not just an elite techno-aristocracy. A world where community is valued over convenience. Purpose over productivity.

This is not an attack. It is an invitation. To expand our thinking beyond machines, beyond money, beyond disruption for its own sake. The future is coming - terrifying, tantalising, abundant in possibility. I'm not denying that, nor am I attempting to hold it back. But its shape depends wholly on the choices we make today. And if there is hope for a future in which the genius of AI enriches rather than impoverishes human life, the next move is ours.

And it will demand a new social contract between the architects of our automated future and the public they serve. Not just platitudes about job retraining programs that never materialise or empty promises that "the market will provide" new employment opportunities. But an actual dedication of resources, ingenuity, and vision to construct the pillars of a post-work society.

What could this look like in practice? For starters, embracing the concept of a universal basic income (UBI) to ensure all people can meet their basic needs regardless of traditional employment. Too often dismissed as unrealistic or idealistic, UBI merits rigorous exploration by technologists disrupting today's job markets.

Education is needed to nurture uniquely human skills like creativity, empathy and philosophical wisdom, while machines specialise in information retrieval and complex calculation. This will require curriculum innovations to help the young develop their innate talents and retrain those displaced by technology. AI developers should fund research into new pedagogical models and educational technologies to democratise opportunity in the automation age.

Community spaces and cultural institutions will grow in importance for providing humans opportunities to connect, exchange ideas, make art and find purpose in a society needing far less traditional labour. And these will need to be subsidised. Program grants, architectural awards, public art sponsorships and makerspace cooperatives are just a few ways AI firms can directly invest in the social fabric of a post-work civilisation.

Finally, a wave of experimentation in shortening the workweek, demonetising labour where possible, and decentralising production must be unleashed to accelerate the transition beyond jobs. Technologists boast endlessly about "exponential technologies." Now is the time to apply that exponential zeal to reengineering time, value and work for a world of radical abundance.

By committing their vast intellectual and financial resources to humanity's welfare alongside their own bottom lines, the prophets of AI can yet realign their disruptive force into a progressive force that elevates all. If they don't – there will be a reckoning. And the social upheaval that follows will dwarf the tech backlash we see today.

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