Venkat makes a good observation: just because a job is boring doesn't mean that a robot can do it better. We humans may be left with jobs that are hard to scale for robotics, but still boring. The archetypal task that fits this description is captcha interpretation: computers can't read the squiggly letters as well as humans, but would you want to do that 2,000 hours per year?

We make the mistake of thinking that just because computers do bounded-variety, repetitive information work very well, that they can do anything that seems repetitive (boring) to humans very well.

But when we're talking complex systems-level schlepping, like the refining of crude data from disparate information systems, there are rarely any elegant algorithms. Just dozens or hundreds of arbitrary details, small fixes, one-time operations, error corrections and so forth. Humans think of it as repetitive work, but it isn't. It is hundreds of similar, but not identical, special cases that are easy (if tedious) for humans to handle, but resist general attacks via elegant algorithms.

In fact I suspect the amount of messy and non-repetitive but critical detail determines the amount of human work a domain can sustain.

The human share of the work pie isn't the gap between machine creativity and human creativity. The real human share of the work pie is the gap between machine repeatability and human boredom.

And this is brutal for the self-described artisans:

Aspiring artisans seek sexy work at small-and-local scales. They reject mass celebrity and status in a global culture, but still crave local celebrity and status (they call it "being respected in the community"). They still look to engage in conspicuous production. They are as prone to deluding themselves that sexy is creative as wannabe actors.

How do they do this?

They do this by confusing economically essential variety (such as handling all the potential variety and ongoing evolution in an online payment system) with economically optional variety (such as uniqueness in hand-crafted coffee mugs). This is the artisan delusion.

If the uniqueness in the product mainly makes the producer feel more special and unique, without leading to profitable differentiation, it's the optional kind, like latte art.

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