Talia Lavin’s cri de coeur

I admire the writing of Talia Lavin. Her beautifully written Substack blog, “The Sword and the Sandwich,” always charms me. This week she published “Fuck You and Your Word-Stealing Machine: A Luddite stands against AI language models and their plunder.” Faith in technology – if not always technology itself – subverts care for humans.

I’ve begun to be skeptical of progress itself; the techno-utopianism of the ‘90s feels quaint and naive. Increasingly, the promises of the rich lords of technological advancement are looking more and more like Tesla’s bizarro Cybertruck: weird and unnecessary polyhedrons that you have to rent forever, created by people isolated from human need and also the desires of the ordinary person. The derisive naming of all techno-skeptics as “Luddites”—in addition to erasing the scarcity and pain that led to that uprising—is also an effective erasure of legitimate reasons for criticism, a brush to tar those who point out all the broken people left behind under the “move fast and break things” ethos that has led us to this precipice.

I mean, obviously I’m not neutral on this; I write words for a living, generally words that are excruciatingly earnest or at least interestingly florid, and I would like to be paid for them and not have them exploited as abstracted, minute pieces of a “corpus” used to feed a machine that will eventually make money for grotesquely rich people. Living as a writer is increasingly precarious—with staff jobs for an vanishingly privileged few, the rest of us clawing at the margins—and the idea that these mega-conglomerates are eager to wrench even the few bucks from our hot little hands disgusts me.

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