The invention of the Gutenberg printing press in the mid-15th century revolutionized the world of written text.

Before this breakthrough, the only source of written information came from manuscripts hand-copied by scribes. Hand-copying was time-consuming and labor-intensive, and books were scarce and expensive.

The common misconception, and what GPT will tell you, is that scribes fared poorly when the printing press came and ate their lunch.

However, the truth is,

1️⃣ Most professional scribes were employed for activities like taking minutes, writing transcripts, and inventories. After all, books didn’t become popular until AFTER the invention of the printing press. These scribes tended to stay employed, because their jobs weren’t worth sending to the printing press.

2️⃣ Monks who copied Bibles were largely glad to be free of the exhausting work. More importantly, they weren’t being paid anyway—the Church supported them before and after.

3️⃣ A large number of new, book-related jobs were created. People were needed to operate the presses, bind books, and sell books.

Certainly, some scribes lost their jobs and were unhappy about it. But the impact was muted because
• The printing press was inappropriate for most written work
• The livelihood of Bible-scribes was unaffected (likely improved)
• A new industry and new jobs were born

I expect the AI revolution to create new industries and jobs that we can’t even imagine today. However, unlike the printing press, AI will affect existing jobs as much as it creates new ones. And, while we have social safety nets, the “before” versus “after” are not equivalent as they were with the monks.

Source: U. Neddermeyer, “Why were there no riots of the scribes?”.