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Moleskine Notebooks and the Future of Employment in an AI world.

Moleskine Notebook in Silicon Valley – Photo: HBO

I was watching HBO’s “Silicon Valley” a few nights ago, and I couldn’t help but notice the Moleskine notebook (bottom middle/left of the image) that Erlich Bachman swiped from the Bream Hall VC fund. It almost seems out of place: a paper notebook sitting on a table surrounded by tech venture capitalists, in the hub of tech innovation.

In a world of Evernote, Google Docs, Apple Notes, and dozens of other digital notebooks that can be synced across devices and easily searched, who would ever buy a cardboard-bound paper notebook at a premium price point? Apparently, a lot of people. According to the Financial Times, “Moleskine’s revenues were €128m in 2015, up from €53m five years earlier. Paper products accounted for nearly 90 per cent of those sales.” Buyers aren’t older generations longing for the past, but tech addicted millennials.

Why? Aesthetics of the notebook is one reason. Another is that pen to paper is the quickest way to get ideas out of your head. There is even research showing that writing things down makes them easier to remember and comprehend. Most importantly, many people find that writing or doodling with pen and paper feels good. It’s a feeling that tech and all of its distractions has difficulty replicating.

The success of low-tech Moleskine notebooks caused me to think about the hysteria that AI and automation will create massive unemployment of professionals. Sure, it will likely replace more of the repetitious back office jobs in the same way that electronic databases have already replaced file rooms of decades ago. But many seem convinced that AI will replace high-touch jobs as well. I find this unlikely, even if AI reaches the point where it could exactly replicate the thought processes of a human.

People are social creatures, and will crave the interaction of other people to assure them of emotional and complicated matters much in the same way that people still desire writing in notebooks. It is far more likely that these professions won’t be replaced by AI, but aided by it (along with a paper notebook).

*Please note this is blog is not a recommendation for the investment in Moleskine.