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The Labor Cube

Post-Work Postulates Vol. 1

Labor as you know it, is dead. Quantum computing and its interoperability with large language models have made famine and war relatively obsolete. Computer and human problems are still the same: noise.

There are still problems to solve. Every flash of every synapse in your brain is documented by your brain-computer interface. The government knows how much you'll eat, sleep, work, and play. Through prediction algorithms and advanced satellite imaging, they can essentially click a button and see a visual of what you're imagining at any given moment.

Our silicon saviors do most of the work for us. Whether through social engineering or material replication. Nobody really bothers to be paranoid about these things anymore. It's commonplace, and it's part of how society works. Reduce noise. Raise signal. Increase efficacy.

Moloch is now largely an old-wives tale, as coordination is now baked into our DNA. Everything happens at the speed of light. We are still human. Which means we are desperate for problems to solve. Plagued by the capacity to experience boredom, we look for something meaningful to do. There are still those who, well, the polite term is "study history." Their imaginations help stress test the network.

Exploitation is a troubling term, but I absolutely cannot think of a gentler way of saying it. We have a civilization to run. You're a vector on a cluster of activity intended to promote flourishing. At the end of the day, you're just another mouth to feed. Whether you add noise or signal, you are required to do something. It doesn't matter what, it only matters that you do. It's the sapiocene, you're only as good as your ideas.

Enter the labor cube.

You walk into your apartment, it's the year 2040. It's been 15 years since the semantic collapse of society. Since all citizens were required to turn in their silicon to the government for repurposing for the war effort. By 2030, the RNG wars had ceased, and we were no longer technologically capable of having secrets. Trust in a trustless society.

On your desk there's an OLED screen and keyboard that are paper-thin. To the modern reader, indistinguishable from stationery. You think, "on" and they both light up. Ah yes, my computer. My 'labor cube.' My little generative agent in a box. The Automated Ghost in the Smart Shell. Everyone is a prompt engineer to some degree. Or maybe you're a Promptress™️

Every month you are given a universal basic income. You're aware that entropy exists, but you never really face it because you have never suffered. However, you know that until you reach the age of 60, you are required to publish 7 prompts a month. These prompts can be anything. You have your personal labor cube, filled with subsidized compute tokens the government has given you. Everything costs compute tokens these days!

For several years, you published generative ideas for TV shows based on your life experiences, but now you find that exhausting. Hiding cryptic messages in them, hoping the world wouldn't notice. It was amusing to you. You added to the collective knowledge of civilization's dataset. You were rewarded. You were happy.

But as you get older, you worry about the wellbeing of yourself in the years to come. You start prompting your labor cube for answers about life extension, space travel, and trying to find new ways to inspire yourself to entertain new ideas. You start looking into photonics, cloud computing, and stem cells. You aren't the first person to do this, but you are the first 'you' to do this. Sure, they have run predictive simulations and can more or less ascertain what you will be prompting your labor cube to solve. You're also aware of the value of redundancy as part of the decentralized error-correction of mankind.

Then you start to get bored. You fail to publish 7 prompts one month because you've decided to spend more of your free time gathering your thoughts, slacking off, or vacationing. All valuable, but useless unless synthesized into the network. To compensate for this lack of labor, you are susceptible to the collective intelligence of the botnet. You know the one, the one that has had data fed into it since the 1980s. The one your grandfather says funded his retirement from all the data privacy settlements he was awarded. (He still asserts this was likely intentional.)

You're exposed to the noise. The nudging of the advertisers who know you well enough to capitalize on your lack of motivation and can effectively use you as a data point in their own labor quota.

They used to be seen as evil. Malicious. But now they are relatively harmless because it's engrained into their code to maximize your productivity but not at the expense of needless acceleration. (What is there left to accelerate after the singularity, anyway? Ponder.)

You don't really even notice you're being influenced by these people. It's fine they are doing it. They have been afflicted with the mind-virus known as capitalism. They studied history. Ephemeral Moloch-worshippers, serving a dead god. When the guard rails are the speed of light, 'harm' becomes really difficult.

The mental health workers of the world decided it was better to allow these people to act on their impulses because adversarial networks are important for growth. "It's all a simulation, and it's a controlled environment. Eventually they get it out of their system. Then they move on, and there's always new noise to replace them."

What, did you think the ancestor simulation served no purpose?

Time has passed. Your lack of motivation has been rehabilitated.

And boy, how have you grown? You're ready to work again. You had some advertisements implanted in your dreams. Things like you like. Things that motivated you to be better. You think it's your idea. It doesn't matter that it isn't. Intelligence has been socialized, subsidized.

You get back on your labor cube. You have new problems to solve. You remember that evil still exists in the world. But you laugh. Knowing they're only as evil as you allow them to be. And now you're filled with ideas once more on how to 'reduce noise.'

Three hours later, you've used up most of your cloud compute tokens trying to solve this problem. You are the 300 millionth person to encounter this exact same scenario and approach it in the same way. But you tell yourself that you're a good person, you have agency. You smile, and you think to yourself: "I'm helping."

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#ubi#post-work#prompt engineering
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