The greatest thing since sliced bread

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February 19, 2024
Maddie Lemay
September 23, 2022
Blog Posts

Sliced bread was first invented in 1928, and by 1933, 80% of the bread from America’s bakeries was pre-sliced. That’s a rapid adoption!

I imagine this new bread-slicing technology was received, in some ways, like how we’re receiving AI right now. Instead of kneading dough, waiting for it to rise, and baking it every few days, a family could go to the store and purchase bread.

What a concept! What a time-saver!

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about the sourdough trend and what it indicates about our tolerance of technology in general.

In case you’re not familiar with this trend: In 2020, many families went back to making homemade sourdough bread. Everywhere I go, I have a friend or family member who makes homemade sourdough bread – it’s like a cult. They send each other pictures of their loaves and chat about how to make their starter healthier.

I jumped on the sourdough train this year, and I’m a little late, but I have to admit: I get it. Once you taste the real thing – a fresh slice of spongy, warm, homemade sourdough bread – the store-bought stuff tastes gross.

I’m not good at making sourdough bread – nor do I always have the time for it. But I’m a snob for the taste of it now, like some people are coffee snobs or wine snobs. If I’m not making a loaf, I’ll buy sourdough bread from a local bakery that lists three simple ingredients: Water, flour, salt. I’ve convinced myself that because I eat sourdough bread, I’m going to at least live to 110.

I’m seeing other people adopt similar “sourdough” trends across other areas of life: they’re reversing some of the ways technology has taken hold of their lives because it’s just not as good as the “real stuff”: in-person connection, reading a good book, talking on the phone instead of texting. Here’s what I’m noticing:

  • More and more people in my network are turning their smartphones into “dumb phones” – they’ve deleted social media, web browsers, and email apps.
  • When we moved into our new home a year ago, we made the intentional decision not to have a T.V. in the living room. I have several friends who have done the same thing. Instead, we have a big bookshelf and a cozy reading lamp.
  • We’re buying produce and meat from local farmers as often as we can, because we’re learning how unsustainable and unhealthy the American food industry has become. (This isn’t just Matt and I; most people we commune with have been doing this as well.)  

^I’m not advocating for a complete reversal of technology. I’m just saying that – more often than not – when new technology emerges, at first it’s the best thing since sliced bread. And then, decades later, we start learning about the repercussions and taking steps to limit its prevalence in our lives.

I’m not a technology expert or historian – but I have a hunch the same thing will happen with AI.

If Chat GPT is sliced bread, then real, authentic, gritty writing is homemade sourdough.

And when people decide they’re sick of the cheap, store bought stuff, I think we’re going to be short on writers who still know how to write.

Kids are growing up in a world where their English essays can be written by ChatGPT. How will they learn how to write from scratch?

Perhaps I’m sounding like an old, cranky grandma who is pointing a crooked finger at “kids these days.”

That’s not my intention, although if this is coming across a bit senile, it’s probably just because I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy and my filter has somewhat disintegrated.

Just food for thought. I don’t think real writing is going to go away anytime soon, and when people ask me if I’m afraid for my job, my answer is genuine.

No, I say. I’m not.  

Just like homemade sourdough bread, there will always be a market for the good stuff.

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