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How To Cope & Thrive Through AI-Induced Existential Crisis

As an SEO specialist, I'm exploring how to cope and thrive in this AI-induced existential crisis. I'm advocating for the use of Linux, Python, vim & git tools and habits to expand my coding capabilities. I'm confronting my fears of AI and learning that it's not a replacement for humans, but a tool to help them. Through this journey, I'm discovering how AI can create new opportunities and make jobs easier and more efficient. Join me on my journey to gain a better understanding.

Exploring AI-Induced Existential Crisis: How I'm Learning to Cope and Thrive

By Michael Levin

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Ugh, I’m starting to engage in the social medias more than before. Consider a sort of warm-up, fleshing out the ideas I want to develop in my capacity as an SEO Specialist at Moz. There’s a whole lot of regurgitation and echo-chamber in my industry. Of course they’re mostly copy-cats or else people interested in this sort of stuff would have ended up scientists or engineers, something with a broader moat around it (more school, more hard skills, etc.).

I too have gone the soft skills route for much of my life, a technical person living in marketing departments. I think I only even got into marketing because it was my door into Commodore Computer, one of those pioneers of the home computer industry that I coveted and which happened to be a half-hour drive from where I grew up in the suburbs of Philly. Given that the whole tech industry seemed to be out in Silicon Valley in California, this seemed amazing to me and I leapt at the opportunity.

Ah, the butterfly effect. Now here I am years later in SEO, trying to still doing technical things in the world of marketing. And along comes AI. And now the world is just beginning its long nosedive into existential crisis. And I’m not just projecting. I personally was going through it 15 years ago when the most recent tech I invested so much time into learning, and more importantly developing the muscle memory around, went out of style. It’s a crisis of tools.

It’s not about the tools, but it’s about the tools. Pay attention to the higher level concepts and not particular implementations. But it’s only the details and nuance of the implementation that really matters (MySpace vs. Facebook for instance). So, which is it? We receive conflicting messages every day. Both sides of each argument sounds like a fundamental principle and correct, but of course you can’t use sweeping generalities for your personal decision-trees.

A deeper understanding of the broad principles is always a good idea so as things change you can maintain the big picture and not get lost in the forest. However, down in the ground amongst the trees you want to have the skills of a seasoned survivor. The former is abstractions. The later is muscle memory.

I think a lot about this. I tried rolling it out on the Internet yesterday, thinking out loud and publishing as I went, through Twitter. The thread is here: Fight the Existential Crisis of AI.

And so I want to join the text of that discussion right here in this blog post. Now the 80/20-rule says just use the Twitter Web UI and do a giant select copy/paste to get that tweet thread over here. Let’s try. Okay, it worked but there’s tons of little edits to get the extra stuff out. An alternative would be hitting the Twitter API, which I could totally do. But it’s easier to just record a vim macro and speed-up the editing. I had to do the copy/paste in 2-passes as it turns out because of infinite scroll, but it was still easier than adjusting the code. I need to think about that. Manual processes vs. coding, the use of the 80/20-rule in selecting the right approach, and why the manual process should ever be better than coding.

Anyway, here’s the Twitter thread from yesterday:

Your language and environment matter. What you’re conditioned to do on a daily basis starts from the moment you wake up in the morning. The first thing you see when you open your eyes has an impact on the rest of the day.

This is your startup sequence. You control your entire day by controlling precisely what happens from here. If you get it wrong and fubar your day, you can always retry tomorrow. Find where you get stuck and plan ahead to un-stick yourself.

This is the great gift of being human, this meta-state of self-awareness that uses language as a tool to organize and codify itself. We’re not born speaking English, but we internalize it as a part of our body. Encoding thought helps think.

It appears now that there will be machines that can even do this better than us my several orders of magnitude. Oh what an existential crisis! If you think it’s bad now, give it a few years. So let’s prepare properly today. Here’s the plan.

Get over your fear of Linux. It’s to tech what English is to humans; not a bad place to have skills. You don’t have to change desktops. Just allow it to run as an interoperable universal code executing layer (often called a VM). Then serve Jupyter from there. You won’t see Linux.

But the foot’s in the door. Now, all the Python code you do in Jupyter will use Linux paths, Linux environment variables, Linux packages through Linux package managers. In other words, standard. Just like on a server. Please, please don’t get scared! Tolerate a bit of nonsense 🤪

As you run your Python code in Jupyter Notebooks like all the Web tutorials show you how to do, you’ll hardly know it’s the Linux version of Python. But it’s key, because it’s hard taking the next step after Jupyter. Being on Linux is the key to true 24x7 automation (i.e. server)

There is unspoken secret complexity dealing with porting code from your proprietary laptop like Mac or Windows to the free and open source server-world dominated by Linux. The traditional way to solve this is for vendors to milk you for revenue through recurring cloud services.

Merely internalize a few tools into your head (Linux, Python, vim & git) to become an extension of your body the way you did English, and your capability expand a hundred-fold. It’s worth doing because nobody can commit planned obsolescencicide on you anymore. They’re timeless.

These Linux, Python, vim & git (LPvg) abilities and habits sound intimidating, but if you use that Linux-installed version of JupyterLab, you’ve taken an astoundingly low-cost first step. You’re going to run Notebooks anyway, you know that, right? So adjust your startup sequence.

For getting started coding, we’re using Python in Jupyter in a browser. You will be coddled getting started—not AI-level coddled because that’s for chumps. But you will be spared trying to code right away in vim—unless you count your daily thoughts typed into a text file as code.

There are 2 vendor-traps here. Vendors MUST alter your startup sequence, least you not become dependent on them. The first is convincing you that VSCode is better than vim, and the other is getting you onto a cloud Jupyter like Google Colab, Amazon SageMaker or Azure Notebooks.

Trusted advisors will put pressure on you to use another text editor than vim. No matter how alluring the sirens song is over there, it’s not the best place to develop your muscle memory. VSCode is to lock you into an ecosystem you will never escape until it’s obsolete by design.

What’s more, VSCode will block you from ever learning git properly, except through it. Same for the critical SSH program. Adeptness at these 2 programs makes you platform independent, but VSCode builds them in so conveniently. Sounds good… right up until obsolescencide.

So what about JupyterLab that I’m recommending? Python on a browser! Isn’t that just as bad? Nope! Because JupyerLab is a learning, documentation and programming literacy platform. I use it explicitly as a transition tool until your daily journaling in vim gets you up to speed.

So why not Jupyter on Colab or other cloud provider? That’s a vendor-trap too! JupyterLab running locally isn’t just your vim transition plan. It’s also your path to hands-on with Linux itself. This comes in time as I roll out various projects with you that leverages this fact.

In summary, as AI teaches you to code, I advocate running it through Jupyter on a Linux VM on your Windows or Mac laptop so it’s similar to ubiquitous Linux servers. We’ll start using vim too but only for daily journaling as practice, which puts you on a path of future-proofing.

We turn AI’s ability to teach us to code into an advantage instead of an existential crisis. We provide the secret ingredients others will miss on similar journeys—muscle memory and a code-execution platform that’s never gonna say goodbye, never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.

If you enjoyed this little journey and look forward to what’s to come, comment, drop me a DM or just follow here and at https://youtube.com/MikeLevin. And if you REALLY want to get started now and are on Windows 10 or 11, then https://mikelev.in/drinkme

As you can see when I use this style I try to keep each tweet to the ~240 character limit, even though I’m currently a Twitter Blue paying customer. I don’t think I’ll keep that up. I find the Twitter 240 character limit good in forcing me to express, contain, and wrap-up each thought efficiently–very unlike what I do here which is the complete rambling opposite.

And finally, a little more story-telling with ChatGPT.

Feeling Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt? That’s called the FUD factor.

Feeling Fear of Missing Out? That’s called FOMO.

Feeling like you bullshit to get by? That’s called Imposter Syndrome.

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt is called FUD. Fear of Missing Out is called FOMO. Believing that maybe you don’t know your stuff and that you’re a faker is called Imposter Syndrome. Write a story about someone feeling all of these things because of the insecurity induced by all the AI hype and how so many people will be losing their jobs over it.

John had always been a software engineer. He had a deep passion for coding and loved to create new things. But lately, he had been feeling anxious and insecure. The hype around AI was everywhere, and he couldn’t help but feel that he was falling behind. He was afraid of missing out on the latest trends and technology. He feared that if he didn’t keep up with AI, he would soon become obsolete.

John’s fears were not unfounded. He had heard that AI would revolutionize the tech industry, and that many jobs would become automated. He had seen news articles about companies replacing their workers with AI-powered machines. He felt like he was on the verge of losing his job, and he didn’t know what to do.

As he scrolled through social media, he saw all the buzz about AI and how it was the future of tech. He felt like he didn’t understand enough about it and that maybe he was a faker. He thought that maybe he didn’t have what it took to keep up with the changing technology landscape.

John felt like he was in a constant state of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD). He was afraid of missing out (FOMO) on the latest trends, uncertain about his future in the tech industry, and doubted his own abilities.

One day, John decided to confront his fears and learn more about AI. He started taking online courses and attending conferences. He learned about the different types of AI and how it was being used in various industries. He realized that AI was not a threat, but an opportunity to learn and grow.

As John delved deeper into AI, he started to understand it better. He realized that it was not a replacement for humans, but a tool to help them. He saw how it could make jobs easier and more efficient, and how it could create new opportunities.

Slowly, John’s fears and doubts began to dissipate. He no longer felt like a faker and began to see the value in his skills and experience. He realized that he didn’t need to know everything about AI to be a valuable asset to his company.

John’s journey taught him an important lesson. It’s okay to feel insecure and uncertain about the future, but it’s important to confront those feelings and take action. Instead of giving in to fear, he chose to learn and grow. And in the end, that made all the difference.

Must continue developing these ideas. The “pitch” that exists as a result belongs on my my homepage.