Discover more from New Artisans
Good Enough is now Universally Available.
Why working like an Artisan will become essential in 2023
One of my favourite quotations about change comes from Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”.
How did you go Bankrupt? Gradually, then suddenly.
We can say the same about insight, innovation, and careers. “Gradually” doesn’t last as long as it used to. The realisation hit home over the break as I spent time with OpenAI, its Chat GPT text generator, and Dall-e-2 image generator.
I asked it to generate an image of an artisan working at his computer surrounded by artworks, and it gave me four images, including the one here, in less than five seconds.
So I asked it to write me a one thousand words story about an apprentice games programmer learning from a Master, and it gave me this (again, in less than five seconds.
Write a 1000-word story about an apprentice games programmer learning his art from a master
The young apprentice sat at his desk, staring intently at the screen in front of him. He had been working on this project for weeks, and he was determined to get it right.
His mentor, a seasoned games programmer, stood behind him, watching as the apprentice typed away at the keyboard.
"Remember," the mentor said, "it's not just about getting the code to work. It's about creating an immersive and engaging experience for the player."
The apprentice nodded, taking in his mentor's words. He had always been fascinated by the world of gaming, and he was grateful for the opportunity to learn from one of the best in the industry.
As the days passed, the apprentice began to hone his skills under the guidance of his mentor. He learned how to create complex algorithms and design intricate game mechanics. He also learned the importance of playtesting and iteration, constantly tweaking and refining his work to ensure the best possible experience for the player.
But perhaps most importantly, the apprentice learned the value of teamwork and collaboration. He worked closely with artists, designers, and other programmers to bring his ideas to life, and he learned how to communicate effectively with his colleagues to ensure that everyone was on the same page.
As the apprentice's skills grew, so too did his confidence. He began to take on more complex tasks and challenges, and he quickly became an invaluable member of the team.
One day, the mentor approached the apprentice with a special project.
"I think you're ready for this," the mentor said. "I want you to lead the development of our next game."
The apprentice's eyes widened in surprise and excitement. This was the opportunity he had been waiting for – a chance to truly put his skills to the test and create something truly great.
Over the next few months, the apprentice worked tirelessly to bring his vision to life. He spent long hours at his desk, pouring over lines of code and working closely with his team to ensure that every detail was just right.
And when the game was finally released, it was a resounding success. Players all over the world were praising the immersive gameplay and innovative design, and the apprentice's name was on everyone's lips.
As he sat back and watched his creation come to life on the screens of players around the world, the apprentice couldn't help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
He knew that he had come a long way since those early days as a humble apprentice, learning the art of game programming from a master. And he knew that there was still so much more to learn and explore in this exciting and ever-evolving industry.
But for now, he was just grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it all – and he knew that with hard work and dedication, the sky was the limit for him and his career.
Now, I can pick all sorts of holes in this, but that’s not the point. It’s not bad - ChatGPT produces B Grade answers to “O” level exam questions, but it’s a machine learning algorithm and learns from every interaction. The quality of what it produces will increase exponentially. If it’s doing B grade “O” level now, what will it be like by the middle of the year as more people use it?
Suppose I was one of those paid to produce the advertising and press release blurb that floods my email and swamps social media. In that case, I think I’d be looking for a job as a Barista, an Uber driver, or anything that involved a need for physical presence. What concerns me more is that harassed managers, under pressure on productivity and performance, will welcome it with open arms, even though they have no idea how it works. Or even if what it produces is accurate. As OpenAI points out, this is not a thinking machine - it creates strings of text from prompts with no allegiance to the truth.
We have reached a point where very soon, just as we can grow meat in a laboratory without needing an animal, so we can grow writers and graphic artists without the inconvenience of a human.
And for average, even good content generation, we won’t be able to tell the difference.
The issue with this direction of travel is that it will produce work like we produce modern cars - reliable, efficient, with devices to compensate for all forms of driver error - and completely and utterly boring.
One of my guilty pleasures is my 1997 Series 1 Lotus Elise. It weighs about six hundred kilograms, has only 120 bhp, and has no power anything - brakes, steering, windows, nothing. On the average road, it has absolutely no performance advantage over a hot hatch and is much less comfortable. On the track, however, where it involves serious driving, it excels. It comes alive and communicates everything going on through the senses, with the result that on a testing track, very little can stay with it. It’s a joy.
I think that’s the space we need to find with our clients if we are to thrive, doing the work we love in an age of increasingly capable technology. Not to be afraid of our flaws but to leverage them to produce something distinct, memorable, and felt. Something that goes against bland “good enough”. Something that gives our inner heretic room to play.
Whatever our craft, that is what artisans do. We may not do scale, cheap, or even fast, but what we produce makes the client smile, not just at the point of delivery and throughout their time with it. It is our signature, gives us pleasure, and we learn with every iteration. For the client and us, it informs every part of our humanity - intellect, emotion, intuition, senses and soul. It is the basis of our relationships with the world around us.
Artificial Intelligence is not our enemy or our competition. It is our ally if we do the work to harness it.
Enter the Artisan
We have spent the last year playing with the idea of the New Artisan. We identified three areas to focus on this year - understanding and leveraging the artisan that exists in all of us, creating an artisan community and developing the confidence to stand out rather than fit in.
As we spend a few days in that liminal space between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new, I am wondering about what new crafts will emerge. Will we have artisans of regeneration or of organisations as old ways of working disappear and perhaps of a community?
Artisans have always thrived and been essential catalysts in the intertidal spaces between cultures, ages and civilisations. They balance short-term needs with long-term aspirations beyond themselves and, although they would often not describe themselves as such, are leaders in changing times.
This is where we start to turn these ideas into action together.
This is the first post on the Substack platform. It gives us more capabilities, from chat to guest bloggers, to podcasts and videos. This is a space where it’s not just ok, but important not to know and important to have a curiosity and determination to experiment to find out what is needed at this time. To think beyond short-term performance and consumption to how we help craft a future for those we will never meet, and to do that in each other company, teaching and learning as we go.
New Artisans is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.