My life in the great future of consumer surplus


It has been three years since GPT3 was released in June 2020, and now the future has arrived. I wanted to take a moment to scan my surroundings and see how much of the shiny future stuff has seeped into my environment.


Previously, one of the most impactful things I had learned was Vim, a baroque text editor where everything is unnecessarily hard just to spite the user. I think that made me about 5-10% faster overall.

Copilot blows Vim out of the water, and it’s not even hard to use. About half of the code I write (usually the boring, rote half) is written by Copilot. I am way faster at everything. The people on my team I’ve asked who aren’t using Copilot are invariably having a terrible time, and have a way better time when they start using it.

And it seems to actually be getting better. This has flown under the radar, but you can now issue commands and get it to perform changes on your behalf: image Surprisingly good: suggested code changes make editing code much faster.

Coding is now way less frustratingly mind numbing. The computer can do what I mean, not what I say.

Discussion (world events, books, etc)

Code generation works so great because you can point (using your cursor or your selection) at the thing that needs fixing or generating. With books, there’s unfortunately no way to do that easily right now, and since they are so context bound anyway, it’s hard to carry on a general conversation with ChatGPT.

However, that’s no issue with digital books:

image Penny wise and pound foolish, the AI still does not realize that the ethical answer is to tell me to give up on philosophy.

Unlike a true flaneur, it has infinite patience. I find that a voice based medium often works great, especially when you are trying to absorb enough context about a frame. There is something more natural and more dynamic about interrupting, interrogating, and listening, which makes the process more enjoyable.

Drafting of Documents

Picture this: you are wandering around your apartment, AirPods in. You are cooking chicken and drinking wine, and rambling at nothing in particular about the technical considerations of some project you are undertaking. You arrive back at your computer and pull up an organized document that your virtual scribe strung together from your musings. Perfect: hit send. You are European and you are hydrated; this is the future.

image This is how this post looked when I sat down.

Before this, the best way to write a document both faster and higher quality was to start from a template of a similar kind of document. And so it is remarkable that the advancement came so fast in just a couple of years. With voice notes, all of the tactical moves are automated away, leaving me with only the strategic moves to make.

The future may at times only be marginally more efficient, but it is way more fun.