Jan 4·edited Jan 5Liked by Étienne Fortier-Dubois

There are two conflated meanings of laziness here: taking shortcuts to save time, and not using one’s time to work. Hard work as a converse of the first represents the waste of human potential (barring some of the side benefits you mentioned). Hard work as a converse of the second can be a virtue *even if* it is only a proxy for things we actually care about. Time not used creating art, improving one’s own or others’ condition, etc, represents a massive opportunity cost. The virtue of hard work is to recognize people who use the efficiency gains of the shortcuts to maximize their potential and create greater total output, rather than the same output for less work.

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Jan 5Liked by Étienne Fortier-Dubois

I really like your analysis.

For me personally there's always been this unspoken ambition (see, I own it now) to be lazy AND successful. It feels like the pinnacle of existence to me, for some reason. Succeeding by putting in as little effort as possible feels like moving with grace through the terrain, finding the middle path instead of using brute force or expecting to be carried by someone else...

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Jan 6Liked by Étienne Fortier-Dubois

I’ve been thinking a lot about the optimal balance between work and leisure. For ex, in the case of an ai automated world where we don’t have to work for our output, and perhaps our incomes are supplemented by UBI, what amount of work should I do?

When I was between jobs I wrote about 20 hours a week so let’s say that’s my optimal amount of work. You might be able to say I’m working hard at my craft even if you could also say I’m being lazy elsewhere (using a dishwasher, using ai art for my writing, etc).

My output might be bad, or an ai might write better than I do. But what does that matter to me who 1) needs something to do everyday and 2) might as well do something I can continually get better at and work on (Sisyphus does sound like pure torture to me). The value to me is in the hard work. It gives my life meaning.

At the same time, because I have devoted myself to writing, I have not devoted my time elsewhere: say to mastering painting. I could use an ai to paint just as a painter could use an ai to write. We’re both putting hard work into something and being lazy about something else. And I don’t think that takes anything away from either of us. The output is beside the point.

Thank you for such a thought provoking essay! I’ll be pondering this one for awhile....

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Feb 23Liked by Étienne Fortier-Dubois


Have had the same question numerous times but I have been too lazy to put the work to answer it so thoroughly 😂

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Jan 10Liked by Étienne Fortier-Dubois

I think there's a subtle difference between dishwashers/cars and the AI art. AI art requires artists to make the art that the models are trained on. Dishwashers don't need specialized dish-washing-references to learn how to wash a new kind of dish. Cars don't need updates and upgrades to drive on a newly constructed road. For that reason, I think these AI's can be thought of to be doing a kind of "theft" of work.

When I buy a car, I'm paying right there for the work that went into making that car. My payment at the dealership is (assumedly) being distributed across the people who designed it, who worked in the factory that assembled it, who worked in logistics to transport it to my town, etc...

The models these AIs were trained on largely don't have permission from the original artists. There's an entire argument about how human artists get inspired and use ideas too, but they also need to put their own time and effort and knowledge into what they create. Time is possibly the most important as it is impossible to get any back once it is spent. There's probably some way to say that using an AI model trained on an artist's work without their permission is akin to stealing their literal life(time).

I can see an argument to be made for the work-value of the AI program *itself* (like the engineering of the dishwasher). I can also see an argument to be made for the work-value of creating the data sets (like the transportation of the dishwasher) ((and a difference between those that get artists permission and those that do not)). But the work-value from the original artists is largely ignored in most of the data sets (the people in the factories creating the physical dishwasher item).

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Jan 7·edited Jan 7Liked by Étienne Fortier-Dubois

This is a good essay but I don't totally buy the argument that we value things primarily because they are rare. By that logic, a drawing I make, if I don't make a lot of drawings, is highly valuable. But in reality nobody cares what I draw. There are clearly other factors at play in determining the value of something.

I also don't believe that hard work is particularly rare. A lot of poor people work pretty hard just to put food on the table. In fact, I think someone working 55 hour weeks working multiple jobs in the food service industry probably works harder than your average CEO. But we value their labor totally differently. Why is that?

I wonder if one of the reasons we value hard work has to do with talent versus skill. Someone might have a great talent to paint, for example, but if they don't improve their skill, they will never become as great as they could be, therefore depriving society of some of their potential. Isn't that part of why we encourage hard work? To develop talents into skills?

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Jan 4Liked by Étienne Fortier-Dubois

Fine post. 2 things: Nassim Nicholas Taleb seems to consider lazy: fine, a sign of smarts, slack and more ( he praised some at his team as "lazy" - at least in the Malcolm Gladwell story about him - I can not recall it from the 2 books of him I read partly).

Another: How hard is this hard work? Scott Alexander point out the obvious: For those with talent it is often EASY to do their thing. He was praised for his essays that came to him like breathing. But math? "to this day I believe I deserve a fricking statue for getting a C- in Calculus I. It should be in the center of the schoolyard, and have a plaque saying “Scott Alexander, who by making a herculean effort managed to pass Calculus I, even though they kept throwing random things after the little curly S sign and pretending it made sense.”" https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/31/the-parable-of-the-talents/

- I can not draw for my life. I know people who can and they all can without effort - or with the same kinda effort I put into a session of CK3, CIV4 or GTAV. You found a way to get the AI to do the pics you wanted? Job well done. Hope it wasn't too hard. ;)

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When all that surrounds us, at last, is completely fake; when human ingenuity and study and long-cultivated abilities have become nothing more than a joke, then we can be free! We'll be free to be as mediocre as we wish, and yet be surrounded by the our trappings, all fake, of art and literature and science. Our brilliant machines will even be able to generate a great hall of people who will stand up and applaud us for our brilliance.

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