Dispatches from the Empire

The jobs being replaced by AI - an analysis of 5M freelancing jobs

The 3 categories with the largest declines were writing, translation and customer service jobs. The # of writing jobs declined 33%, translation jobs declined 19%, and customer service jobs declined 16%.

Too bad, too, because whoever wrote this article could have used an editor.

This article tracks with my experience in the field. I’m a freelance editor — print, audio, some video. My work has never felt so fraught, as I’ve never felt so undervalued. My work can be done by a computer!

I suddenly wonder what so many people have felt over the last thirty years since, say, NAFTA. To have your job swept out from under you and automated or sent abroad to be done by people for lower pay… I was all of eight when NAFTA went into effect, and I’ve never known what America was like beforehand. Yet I see the husks of mills and factories everywhere I go. (In fact, I gravitate to them, a moth to a flame.) I’ve not really felt what it must’ve been like to live through that transition.

Well, now I’m feeling it. It sucks. The insecurity is profound.

When I tell people of my predicament, there’s little sympathy from my fellow millennials, many of whom have never had the freedom that comes from work-from-your-computer self-employment. There’s a strong sense of something bordering on schadenfreude, that my luck finally ran out.

And I fear they’re right. I’m almost 40. I haven’t had a boss in fifteen years. I set my own schedule. My work has paid well, sure, and I’m fortunate to have assets that, if it becomes necessary, I can sell to survive. But what skills do I have? Put another way, what skills do I have that won’t be automated away by AI in the coming years? Most of what I know how to do I’ve done via a computer, and any work done on a computer is liable to be AI’d away.

Thankfully (or so I’m telling myself), this comes at a time when I’ve never been so dissatisfied with my work. People hardly read, and I no longer feel that people care to learn to write. Nor am I so sure that good journalism matters in the era of find-whatever-facts-you-want social media. I once was so certain that my work in journalism, however limited in scope, was good and just and righteous. That certainty is now gone, and I’m left adrift.

Not only have I lost my faith in what once felt like a calling, I’ve not yet felt another. It’s a dark, uncertain space.