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The Rise of "Craft" in the Professional Class: Authenticity, Insecurity, and the Threat of AI

Core Concepts
The increasing use of the term "craft" in the professional world reflects a desire for authenticity and a fear of obsolescence in the face of AI advancements, but it also obscures deeper issues around the devaluation of creative labor.
The article explores the growing obsession with the term "craft" in the professional class, particularly in the context of the rise of AI and large language models. The author argues that the use of "craft" serves to signal authenticity, value, and prestige, as well as a defense against the perceived threat of AI-generated content. The author traces the origins of this trend to the widespread availability of AI image generators in late 2022, which made it possible for anyone to create "passable" content. In response, the notion of "craft" has become a way for professionals to differentiate their work and assert their value, linking their products to the human labor and expertise behind them. However, the author suggests that this emphasis on "craft" is ultimately a defensive and insecure response, masking deeper issues around the devaluation of creative labor. The author argues that the energy spent on fighting for attention through "craft" might be better spent on collective efforts to recognize and resist forces that threaten to worsen working conditions and ensure that productivity gains are widely shared. The article also cautions against getting too caught up in the "craft" discourse, as it may play into the hands of AI proponents by engaging with the AI discourse on its own terms. The author suggests that AI is not inherently magical or unbeatable, but rather a political tool used to consolidate power and control the flow of information. Ultimately, the author argues that the solution lies not in crafting our way out of the problem, but in addressing the underlying systemic issues.
"Craft signifies value and virtue. It stakes a claim to merit and prestige. It links the product to the human labor that produced it." "The problem with 'craft' is that, taken to extremes, it becomes…crafty. The line is increasingly blurry between 'craft' (read: not AI) and everything else you see, and in trying to delineate it, we shift attention toward the 'how' and away from the better question: the 'why.'" "AI isn't magic — the basic technology behind it is readily available and value neutral, and you don't need a computer science degree from an Ivy League school to get the gist of how it works under the hood. And innovation and figuring out ways to make work better and easier are worthwhile pursuits. But AI as it exists in the popular imagination right now isn't really about that: its real power is in its usefulness as a political tool, in the hype machine surrounding it, in the accelerationist, deregulatory, hyper-capitalistic, fear-based ideology it represents."

Key Insights Distilled From

by Richard Lamp... at 03-29-2024
On “Craft”

Deeper Inquiries

How might the obsession with "craft" in the professional class be leveraged to address the underlying issues of the devaluation of creative labor and the consolidation of power by AI and tech companies?

The obsession with "craft" in the professional class can be leveraged as a platform for advocating for the recognition and fair compensation of creative labor. By emphasizing the human touch, expertise, and dedication that go into crafting a product or service, professionals can highlight the value of their work in contrast to the automated processes of AI. This can serve as a rallying point to push back against the devaluation of creative labor and the encroachment of AI on traditional creative roles. Additionally, by promoting the idea of craftsmanship as a form of resistance against the homogenizing effects of technology, professionals can raise awareness about the need to maintain diversity and authenticity in the creative industries.

What alternative narratives or frameworks could be developed to counter the dominant discourse around AI and its impact on the workforce, beyond the defensive posturing of "craft"?

To counter the dominant discourse around AI and its impact on the workforce, alternative narratives or frameworks could focus on collaboration between humans and machines rather than competition. Emphasizing the complementary nature of human creativity and AI capabilities can shift the conversation from a defensive stance to one of innovation and adaptation. By highlighting the potential for AI to enhance rather than replace human creativity, professionals can explore new possibilities for creative expression and problem-solving. Additionally, promoting narratives that prioritize ethical considerations, social responsibility, and the democratization of technology can help reframe the discourse around AI in a more positive and inclusive light.

In what ways could the collective efforts of professionals be directed towards building more equitable and sustainable models of work and production, rather than focusing solely on individual "craft" as a means of differentiation?

Professionals can redirect their collective efforts towards building more equitable and sustainable models of work and production by advocating for systemic changes that benefit the entire creative workforce. This can involve promoting fair wages, better working conditions, and opportunities for professional development and advancement across the industry. By forming alliances, unions, or professional organizations, creatives can amplify their voices and push for policies that prioritize the well-being and rights of all workers. Additionally, professionals can engage in advocacy efforts to promote diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in the creative industries, ensuring that opportunities for participation and recognition are available to a wide range of individuals. By focusing on collective action and solidarity, professionals can work towards creating a more just and sustainable creative ecosystem.