6/8/22

Infinite work

At YouTube we used to get more tasks on our task list every day than we took off. This sounds terrible but isn’t.


Without prioritization nothing would ever get done. So every day involves some amount of prioritization. The implant stuff bubbles up. The less important stuff goes by the wayside.


But as a junior person on the team I had a fantastic opportunity. I could simply start at item 5. The place no senior member would ever reach. Important enough to be on the list, not important enough to be on the top. That item would never, ever be reached if not for my attention so it’d be mine completely. No pressure because it’s a nice to have. But benefit if it gets done.


The whole world is like this. There’s the top of the list of important things. The items a few down the list might never get handled, but if you create value (defined by the cost of your effort is less than the value derived) you’ll find that there’s infinite work.


What a crazy thought. Infinite work. Like that whole story of “job creators” might be bullshit. The whole concept of “getting a good job” might be backwards.


What if instead we simply find things on the task list and get to work?


What taklist you might ask? It helps to have a specific focus. But there are people with tasklists all over. If you think about it you have a task list too. Stuff in the world you dislike, systems that chafe, policies that aren’t quite right. Anything you don’t like is an item for the list.


Well duh, but how do ya get paid. Getting paid is different, but not too different. If you’re creating value that’s inherently montizable. The easiest way is to find someone with a big task list, prioritize it and knock out the few near the top. Or better yet find a structural error putting too many things on the list, an area to automate, a clever tool. That’s value.


Every task list is potential work. Every wrong thing, every annoying thing. Open your eyes and look around. There’s work everywhere. Will we ever run out? I suspect we’ll keep discovering new work at the same rate we do now. As we explore new areas we’ll discover work we never even thought of.


Now here’s a thought. What if we focused on work that helped people clear those lists faster and better? What if we focus on improving the way we work generally. That’d sure be a thing to behold. Well… behold. Grounded AI.


We decided to use AI to help regular people do their jobs better. One job at a time, on industry at a time. With a focus on value creation. Will this automation increase efficiency? Yes. Will increased efficency cause loss of jobs? Hopefully it’ll just mean more of the checklist gets done, more things get fixed, more things get better.


If we’re right and there is infinite work we’re all good. Hopefully we’re right.


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