Is AI coming for you?

I once read in a book, “If your business doesn’t keep up with technology, technology will put you out of business.” At one time this made a lot of sense to me. I grew up in a time when typewriters were used in the office. The word processor was something feared at first. But it quickly proved itself as an ally and not the enemy. I think even the most die-hard traditionalist would agree the word processor is superior. But then soon following were other forms of technology that aided us, such as GPS for directions, Photoshop for pictures, Adobe for editing videos, Spotify for music, and Netflix for watching videos. But is there more that we need to be concerned about? Could technology not just potentially put us out of business, but make our business obsolete? 

In my 25 years of making furniture, for the most part, things have remained the same.  I still use my table saw, and my hand tools are used daily. But in recent years some new tools have appeared. The CNC has found its way into most small shops. No need to learn to carve or collect a variety of chisels. Just get the latest download for your computer. 

Other forms of equipment are showing up too. I just recently acquired a laser engraver. It’s quite impressive and I can see several uses for it in my shop. So are these new tools of technology a threat? At one time, I would have said, “Yes, the CNC is a threat. It made the skilled carver a thing of the past. A person with no skill just has to push a button.” Well, my thoughts have changed. A CNC is not that easy. In fact, I found it takes a great amount of practice and education to be skillful with a CNC. Plus there are other things to consider as well. No matter how much someone can do with a CNC, they still have to understand wood joinery and wood movement. A computer doesn’t understand that. It takes a skilled woodworker to know that knowledge. Or does it?…..

If you haven’t already heard about it, then you will. It’s called ChatGPT. This is an AI writing program. I’ve tried it and it’s pretty amazing. Type in a few sentences or even keywords and it writes a descriptive outline. I tested it on woodworking knowledge. It wasn’t 100% accurate, but it was very close. People are using it to write contracts, speeches, lesson plans, and it can even write a program for computers. To take this to the next level, I have a friend who is using this software to write a description and then a different AI program that takes the description and produces a drawing and even animation.  

The potential for this is going to be a serious game-changer. Who needed editors or authors anymore? News anchors and broadcasters will be AI simulated. They never get old, ask for days off, or need to get paid. It will lead to a new superhero action star for Hollywood. Imagine if Arnold Schwarzenegger never got old. Could this technology make its way one day to my shop? If I wanted a desk, maybe all I would have to do is type a description into my phone and, “poof” the desk will be made.  

I can’t say for certain that will happen, but I won’t be in denial. Never before has technology been advancing at an alarming rate. It’s amazing and yet worrisome. If that day does come and I am completely replaced, I can happily say I was the last of the generation that actually designed and built things with my actual hands and this craft of woodworking isn’t going away, it’s just evolving. 

Check out this video and see what is here already. Click here for the video

Chad Stanton- Owner Stanton Fine Furniture 2-1-2023

5 Responses

  1. I know what you mean, at 83 i`ve seen things going to machines that do it all, just flip a switch. I am one that see something I like I can build it, no plans. But I make things for our house to improve our lives or someone asks for something. I do that to keep busy so time doesn`t fit although it does take longer today due to age I`ll stay with my old machines ( maybe a new Saw-Stop), I`ve cut my thumb not to bad, but then maybe not. I like watching your shows when I find one . Have a great day, I`m almost ready for my Lord & stay safe

  2. I feel there is always a higher value to things made by hand. Just recently walked through antique shop. $4500 for a wood worker bench that the two vices don’t even work anymore. It was solid hand built with square holes for bench dogs. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to get vices working but the antique shop knew as a well built hand built bench it’s a classic and even if someone used it for a table it’s very cool. Had all the scratch marks, hammer hits, cuts…it had a great life. (no I didn’t buy it) Same shop vintage furniture with hand carving 2, 3 or 4 times higher price than production stuff. I don’t want to attempt CNC until I’ve learned how to do it buy hand. One thing I learned from class vs machines: dove tails are better when made by hand. Gave away the dove tail tool and router bits to neighbor. Sure I have to take more time but boy it’s more rewarding and it just looks better. I love science fiction and I honestly fear we are beginning to see a generation that easily would accept machine control or worse the Matrix! I for one keep doing it with some tools but no automation. Just takes the fun out of building stuff.

  3. Chad,
    Let me first say this, AI is dumb. By “dumb” I mean that it can do nothing on it’s own. It relies on input. Input that exists outside itself. You mentioned the CNC router. It too is dumb. Computers are dumb. Our tools, be they power tools or hand tools, are dumb. In order for any of these things to do anything they must have input from humans, who are not dumb. Why are we not dumb? Because we are alive. AI is not alive. Disconnect AI from electricity and it ceases to be. You see, it all becomes so philosophical. AI can not and will not replace us. Let me ask, when chatting with AI, who initiates the conversation? AI or the human? If the human doesn’t initiate the conversation, will the AI speak first to get the conversation started? AI will always be dumb. Keep that in mind.

    1. I find this new world of AI very interesting. Time will tell who is dumb and who is intelligent. Thanks for commmenting.

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