By Andy Valencia
Over the years of my life, the US has been shedding ability at a pretty decent pace. We sent manufacturing overseas, and now we have almost nobody who knows how to design for manufacturing, how to set up injection molding, how to use a mill and lathe to fabricate custom parts. We’ve aggressively shed mining and timber – we still use metals and wood, but it feels better to have its collection and processing be done somewhere else, on our behalf. It was OK because we were all going to be information workers.
Then we sent most of our software work offshore. This was OK, we were told, because it was just the less-important work. Our senior software people were still valuable. I asked how anybody in the future could become senior if not by way of a junior position? There was no answer, and I knew this part of the “information worker” economy was in trouble. When you read about the months-long, brutal, degrading interview process to get a software job, you should realize that this is a symptom of many people competing for few jobs.
Our economy is now defined by “FIRE,” an acronym for Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate. You might work in a restaurant, or a market, or a gas station, but you basically work in support of the FIRE job holders. Aside from the executives, isolated in their Olympian top floors, most workers in FIRE are indeed information workers. But, truth be told, their work is a mix of the menial, repetitive, and largely meaningless.
But, back to my article title, what does this have to do with search?
Google’s search quality has been sinking for years. In past articles, I’ve mentioned DuckDuckGo.com, which has run a far superior service in both result quality and protection of your privacy. But many people have now reported on an implosion in Duck’s search result quality. For most purposes, it suddenly became useless. Why would they do that?
Search is a tool for pointing you at pages holding information. When you read those pages, your knowledge grows, and then you can answer or refine the questions which caused you to search. As you pursue the search results, you become a more informed person in general. At least in the area of your search topic.
And now we are coming to the end of the virtuous cycle of searching, reading search results, and becoming educated and informed. Google’s results are poor, and Duck’s are now tragic. What a coincidence that a brand new way to get answers has just arrived!
For with “AI,” specifically things like ChatGPT and its ilk, you no longer read material, you no longer learn, you no longer form your own answers. You ask a question, and it tells you the answer. We shed manufacturing, and lost our ability to create the things which fill shelves. We shed software, and now almost nobody has any idea how our technology works. With learning itself now obsolete, what exactly is left?
Our appetites and our vices, I guess. How do you build an economy on top of eating and perusing naughty websites? If you don’t have a good answer to that question, let me suggest one: Don’t use AI. Ever.