Ben Bartosik

June 18, 2024

Humans seem to have a tendency to introduce a new technology and then consider the ethics of it later. This was a theme that Arendt was wrestling with in the Human Condition, the role of the public realm in debating the ethics of progress. Sennett, in the Craftsman, picks up this idea. Throughout the book he is examining the relationship between human craftwork and the machine.

It's hard not to read it with the normalization of AI in the background; which is, admittedly, part of my own interest in reading it at all.

In a chapter on material consciousness, he discusses the tension between natural and artificial materials and the way in which we attach virtue to these concepts. His point was that we endow a certain 'honesty' when natural materials and processes are used to create something. Machines, however, have challenged our ability to know the difference by replicating the look of handmade things. While a creator might know the difference, the average person does not. AI has brought this replication into the realm of language, expression, and thought; mass producing ideas in a way that is getting harder for the average person to discern. This, in turn, puts pressure on all knowledge workers to embrace AI just to keep up.

The question that I am wondering increasingly is what happens when we replace our human ability to think through problems and solutions? Just as we have 'forgotten' the skills and processes of other crafts that embrace the convenience of machines, will our reliance on prompts cause us to lose the capacity to move a thought from inception to conclusion?