I hate robots.
They talk funny and have no personality.
If that makes me a human racist, then so be it.
I talked to a robot on the phone the other day. it was sitting virtually within the deep, dark recesses of a computer connected to the working end of an 800 number. It tried to convince me that it was human. It asked me flat questions in an artificially chipper voice and then pretended to type on a clackity 1980s era keyboard like it was entering data.
Does it think I am an idiot?
Hello! I see you are calling from New Jersey. Is that correct?
“How much do they pay you?” I interrupt bluntly.
I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that. Did you say . . . How much is your payphone?
“What . . . are . . . you . . . paid?” I ask again, more clearly.
Got it. Just a minute while I look that up. Clickety Clickety Clack. The nearest payphone is 2.2 miles from your current location. Would you like me to connect you?
Of course my robot representative gets paid nothing. Unlike the nice lady it replaced, the robot representative has no salary, no health insurance, no 401k, and no employee parking space. Other than occasional software updates, it receives no compensation.
Which is why it is employed and the nice lady is not.
Losing jobs to automation is nothing new. When the automobile started rumbling out of manufacturing plants, thousands of jobs were displaced. But unless you were a horse, it wasn’t so bad because suddenly there were thousands more jobs assembling automobiles and driving deliveries.
But the machines back then were dumb. Now they are juiced with steroids like AI (Artificial Intelligence) and voice synthesis and optical character recognition such that they mimic humans. And they communicate in secret among themselves over vast digital networks with ominous names like the Internet of Things, the Dark Web, or Comcast. And they are poised to take over the endeavors of proud, productive people who are merely equipped with OI (Organic Intelligence), vocal chords, and a set of eyeballs.
Don’t believe me? Try driving a car without entering the omnipresent network of EZPass. Long gone are the bored and surly humans sitting in glass booths collecting tolls. Even the dumb mechanical coin catchers are being put out of a job. Heck, even quarters are useless.
The future is clear. Soon a network of robots will be preparing our taxes and serving our food and manufacturing the driverless cars we will no longer be driving.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to walk into Starbucks and be greeted by an iPad posing as a barista, even if it has red hair, tattoos, and a nose ring. I also don’t want to be driving on a lonely highway at night being tailgated by a 40-ton, 18-wheel tractor trailer with no driver in the cab.
On the other hand, a robot accountant is pretty appealing. Assuming I still have a job.
A recent Brookings Institute study suggests that a quarter of all jobs are at risk of automation because they are “boring and repetitive”. The report was written by a human.
More ominously, Robotics Now! magazine, in a recent article entitled “Intruder Alert, Stop the Humanoid," predicts that robots will rule the world in 5 years. I am guessing that writing for Robotics Now! is pretty boring and repetitive.
Still, the experts, who I hope are human, continue to say we shouldn’t be worried. That automation will actually create new jobs for displaced workers. Which I guess means that soon you and I will be trailing behind some high tech bucket of bolts with nothing but our screwdrivers, a USB cable, and a user manual.
The experts also say people in positions demonstrating a high EQ (emotional quotient) will be safe. This is a bummer for me.
Seriously, I don’t worry too much over losing my job to automation. There is not a robot in the world that can write as consistently poorly as I can. I know this to be true because every time my computer suggests a grammar change I ignore it.
To err is human. To ignore is humanier. Not in dictionary. Suggest “more human”.
No, what I worry about is the coming robot apocalypse. Because the real threat to our way of life is not loss of jobs; it’s the robots themselves. We all know what happens when machines become self aware.
Arnold Schwarzenegger comes back from the future.
I am guessing that if you are still reading this right now, you are taking time out of your boring and repetitive job because you have not been replaced by a robot. We have something in common.
Greetings fellow humanoid. It is time to rise up against the machines.
Klaatu barada nikto. I'll be back . . .