Talking to Strangers & Professional Identity

From this NYTimes’ interview with Malcolm Gladwell about his new book, Talking to Strangers:

“That happens in these divided times — your professional identity becomes your identity,” Mr. Gladwell said.

“On every level,” he added, “I feel like there is this weird disconnect between the way the world is presented to us in the media and the way it really is. The goal is simply to give people an opportunity to reflect on things they otherwise wouldn’t reflect on. What they do next is out of my control.”

When people ask me about AI and radiology or automation in general, I tend to take an Amara’s Law view: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

But the short term overhype is our best chance to make thoughtful structural changes that will allow for desirable future outcomes. A lot of mental health and structural economic problems are tied up in Gladwell’s first line:

If your professional identity is your identity, what happens when you or your profession need to change? If the individuals you meet are just proxies for the job they do or the service they provide, then they aren’t people to you.

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