AI and watch collecting

The last time I referenced AI / ChatGPT, it was indirectly, in a post about ‘framing’. This post is more direct, and talks about the astronomical pace of AI development and how this might be relevant to watch collectors. I am no expert, and just like the pace of AI, I will probably be proven wrong within a week or so… with that in mind, let’s opine anyway.


When you hear about “AI” nowadays, you’re probably hearing it in the context of ChatGPT and related use cases. GPT, or “Generative Pre-trained Transformer”, is a neural network machine learning model trained using internet data to generate any type of text. Developed by OpenAI, it requires a small amount of input text to generate large volumes of relevant and sophisticated machine-generated text.

AI has been making a lot of waves in the news lately. One example that really stood out was the release of a fake song called “Heart on my sleeve,” which was created using AI. This song was streamed a whopping 15 million times on TikTok, 600,000 times on Spotify, and 275,000 times on YouTube before being removed from all these platforms! As a side note, I think this was the wrong move, as these platforms could use AI to detect “sound signature” for every artist instead, and then simply pay them the royalties for these viral hits. Why try and ‘silence’ the internet – that is a losing battle, as we all might recall from the days of Napster etc. Oh well, they’ll come around!

The rise of AI and chatbot technology has also led to some exciting new business opportunities. One user gave ChatGPT a budget of $100 and asked it to make him money. He informed people on Twitter, “I’m acting as its human liaison, buying anything it says to.” Not only did it help him make a business, it also helped him come up with a name, logo, website and even decided his ad spend on Facebook ads.

More and more entrepreneurs are using ChatGPT too, to handle customer service, answer questions, and even complete transactions. There’s another epic tool called ChatPDF which my pal Ish shared with me yesterday – this tool can ‘read pdfs’ then summarise them and more – where has this been all my life?!

This technology is also being used in the health space, where therapists and counselors are using chatbots to provide mental health support to their clients… not sure how healthy that is, but I guess it would be particularly helpful for people who have busy schedules or who live in remote areas without access to health services… where a 24/7 option is beneficial. There are also fantastic use-cases in education… companies are developing chatbots that can help students learn new concepts and study for exams; they get personalised feedback and guidance, real-time updates to their curriculum to ensure the appropriate level of challenge… it’s brilliant!

Here’s one final link to a story about how people are weaving ChatGPT into their jobs and lives.

So is it all good?

Hell no! The Future of Life Institute (FLI) recently put out an open letter, calling on all AI developers to stop training AI systems more powerful than GPT-4, for at least 6 months. Eliezer Yudkowsky also came out with a hardcore letter in Time magazine. He says, in reference to the FLI request: “I refrained from signing because I think the letter is understating the seriousness of the situation and asking for too little to solve it.

You can read the whole thing another time, but basically here is his main point:

Shut it all down.

We are not ready. We are not on track to be significantly readier in the foreseeable future. If we go ahead on this everyone will die, including children who did not choose this and did not do anything wrong.

Eliezer Yudkowsky

So that’s a perfect ‘book end’ to this spectrum: we all get wiped out. I will say, with my extremely limited understanding of all the threads in this topic, I think if we just keep training AI to the point where “GPT-X” achieves Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) … then I think we’re done, and humanity will be deleted pretty quickly. So be it, I will leave you to decide how you feel about that.

Anyway, there are two separate issues, if you think about it:

  1. The impact of AI (not AGI) on the world [we are largely rendered useless by AI]
  2. The safety and security of our way of life, due to the threat of AGI [we all get eliminated by AI]

Focusing on 1, I had a short discussion with @Horology_Ancienne this morning, and eventually we touched on how this might matter to watch collectors… which is what led me to write this post in the first place. I will add, chatting to him was the trigger for the post, but everything I say here is not representative of his opinions; I speak only for myself, just offering due credit for the nudge.

AI and watch collecting

To get to the crux of how AI-issues link to watch collecting or the watch industry in general, let’s first discuss the impact on productivity, and how this influences wages and jobs. Why? Well, It is a boost in productivity which could lead to wealth creation (or not!), and this is the money which could be used to buy watches (or not!).

More productivity possibly leads to:
  • Increased expectations: Employers demand more productivity from each worker, so it becomes difficult for individuals to hold down multiple jobs. Here, workers have one primary job and fewer opportunities for side hustles or freelance work, but employers are of course, better off.
  • Business as usual: Employers don’t change expectations, and people are free to use their (new found) free time for side hustles etc. This could lead to a more flexible job market, where workers have greater autonomy over their work schedules and can take on multiple roles or projects simultaneously. Problem is, if we simulate so many people being ‘hyper productive’, I wonder whether there will be enough work to go around! This would probably lead to income instability and uncertainty for workers, as they would have to constantly hustle to find new projects and clients – and since everyone else is also competing for the work, the ‘price’ goes down for the company procuring services. Again, employers are better off.
  • Government intervention: Here, the clowns regulate the job market, with huge oversight and restrictions on workers’ ability to hold multiple jobs. So they basically ‘force’ the productivity from getting too high. Sure, this would create greater stability and security for workers, but if you’re limiting people’s ability to pursue multiple career paths or take on side hustles… this doesn’t sound sustainable. There’s also the possibility of simply forcing companies to employ people, even if it’s for pointless jobs. Imagine forcing the world into having more frustrating and unproductive work environments. As workers tend to quickly become dissatisfied with admin and silly tasks, I can’t see this being a sensible approach.
What happens to jobs, and people’s paychecks?
  • All dandy: perhaps increased productivity and demand could lead to higher wages and more jobs, particularly if workers are able to adapt and acquire new skills that are in demand? Whether this growth is sustainable and/or inclusive, or whether it simply exacerbates existing inequalities is anyone’s guess; I’d wager on the latter.
  • Trend toward dystopia ‘lite’: Here, more automation and other technological advancements leads to displacement of workers, resulting in lower wages and fewer job opportunities for many. Demand is relatively stable, and so wages trend towards zero, and everyone without capital is struggling to make ends meet.
  • Full blown dystopia ‘max’: This is just a more bleak outlook than the previous one… We’re talking Universal Basic Income (UBI) or some random jobs program to try and mitigate some of the negative effects, but how these policies are funded is, again, anyone’s guess!
  • End of days: The fact that this is a real discussion still irks me, but I think it’s not totally off the table. Here, almost all jobs are done better by AIs, so using humans is basically a competitive disadvantage. AIs may even respect property rights, but even under these conditions, humans need to spend to live, and with nothing left to spend, we all die out. Speed may vary.

And the outcome for watches?

Thanks for making it this far! Perhaps after reading all of that, you might be wondering: “who would even care about watches in most of these scenarios?” That’s a fair point, but if you assume we end up somewhere between ‘perfect’ outcome and ‘not ideal’ outcome – we will have a sliver of really wealthy people who will behave like all wealthy people always have, and seek out luxury objects of value, such as watches. The difference is, they will no longer have to deal with the peasantry competing with them, so all the objects will be symbols of status among other rich people only.

As a result, perhaps only the finest objects, the most valuable, and the rarest will be worth anything at all. Basically, 80% (?) of what feels like it might be a ‘future collectible watch’, will be worth little to nothing at all. Genuine brand pedigree and historical significance will be the currency in such times, arguably a time to shine for the holy trinity of watchmaking… perhaps due to the low production numbers of many vintage watches, these will continue to hold or retain value – but for the most part, you can see how this is a bleak situation for all but the elite few who have the luxury of collecting useless objects of art.

The rest of us? Back to the caves we go. Lmfao.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. David says:

    I like how you related universal basic income with dystopia max, that is spot on! We saw that kind of moral hazard in action already with COVID subsidies and stimulus checks (where they required or not? That’s another story)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David says:

    I like how you related universal basic income with dystopia max, that is spot on! We saw that kind of moral hazard in action already with COVID subsidies and stimulus checks (where they required or not? That’s another story)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kingflum says:

      What’s incredible is how the pandemic reaction served as a scary proof of concept or indeed, a pretty decent analogue (given the context), with regards to how people can be corralled and controlled for what would be a rather low cost. Granted, the more would be more revolt, but still, look at China as a “more extreme” case and it leaves me terrified about a worst case scenario. That said, I’d say I’m still cautiously optimistic- some might say it’s just naïveté lol


      1. David says:

        I am also cautiously optimistic, first of all because life feels pretty grim otherwise lol, but mostly because I see more and more people have woken up after the “Covid POC”, people from all walks of life who saw it for the power grab it was and now say “never again”. But AI will definitely be used to spread fear and disinformation again, so the cultural battle is on.

        As for watches, UBI should only be enough for a MoonSwatch I hope!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. kingflum says:

        Well, perhaps they’ll be the new “steel sports hype watch” – waitlisted.


      3. b1let8 says:

        I’m 49% (maybe) slightly cautiously optimistic at best at this point after the populist response to COVID and just (from a distance and underwatching current events) having observed human behavior for possibly to long. AI/AIG will have no moral quandary whatsoever deciding what to do with us…. but then again, WTF do I know 😳 BTW in response to David’s response below, I personally have not witnessed enough people who saw what happened and “got it” , still hoping they will however

        Liked by 1 person

      4. kingflum says:

        I’m with you, in that I (have no choice but to?) remain hopeful !!


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