robots jobs

Mass hysteria abounds when people discuss the role of robots in our future. The prevailing wisdom is that artificial intelligence in the name of robots, if not actually becoming intelligent and masterminding our governance, will at least take over our jobs and consequently our livelihoods, leaving little for man to do except twiddle his thumbs while awaiting his pizza delivery from a cyborg.

This concern for artificial intelligence–at a latter stage of our lives when we are vying for fewer and fewer jobs in a competitive marketplace–arrives far too little, too late. Hardly are we cognizant of the initial entrées of robots into our lives and the myriad ways we entangle our very selves with their existence.

The conflict with robots does not start when they beat out our carefully composed resumes for coveted positions; the reality is that robots enter our lives much earlier.

Robots bounce and rock our children to sleep when our arms are full or just tired. They toast our bread. They wash our dishes clean and boil our rice to al dente perfection. They direct us on a journey across town. They alert our attention to errors in papers and blog posts with squiggly red lines. They fan our bodies cool during the hottest of temperatures and heat us before we shiver.

Now, if we are particularly adventurous, they water our plants or turn off and on our lights from a distance. It is perplexing to actually contemplate how many tasks we have delegated to robots.

Their reliability is what we champion. With adequate charging or the correct size batteries, they rarely let us down. Their margin of error is considerably less than what we would expect if we assigned these tasks to humans, which impresses us dearly.

Robots have become normalized in our lives. As everyday fixtures, we have come to appreciate their efficiency and regard them as necessity.

In fact, we have developed a physiological and psychological dependency for our robots. A comforting massage chair knows just how to work out the kinks in our shoulders to relieve stress. A high-tech expresso machine validates our high-class status.

In turn, our robots have developed social lives, intertwined with our own. They have become part of the household. At times, we discuss them as we would the houseplant or the family dog. To an alien observer from outer space, all would seem superfluous, but in our own perceptions they define our kismet, which makes us inseparable.

Somewhere down the road, rhetoric emerges that robots are superseding us, that we need to halt their takeover. However, those pleas that robots are displacing humans from employment recede, with little ado, from the public and private consciousness with a resounding mum.

While there remains no counterclaim to the line of thought that underscores the ubiquity of robots, the impetus to act evades us. Why?

By the time the capitalist or imperialist or globalist moves for robots to usurp all spectrums of human activity, conceivably from the workforce all the way down to reproduction, we have already developed a grave and debilitating ethical conflict of interest. Subconsciously this newfound attack on robot workers registers on a personal level. If I reject the robot cashier, must I reject the robot dishwasher too?

The case against robot workers cannot be won with logic when humans (now framed as workers) generously accept robot-friends and robot-family members throughout the course of their lifetimes. The argument cannot retain any sincerity, if we do not scale back reliance upon robots in normalized capacities.

Devaluing human labor at home makes it easy to disregard its importance in the workplace. In choosing personal convenience and pleasure, our robots at home, we are unwittingly submitting to the replacement of our livelihoods, our robots at work, and whatever other substitutions avalanche down that slope.

If not from the origin, at point A, when is the best time to excise robots from our lives? At point X, when they began washing our cars? What about point J when they started brewing our coffee? Much like conversations about abortion, any attempt to define a timeline for acceptable use devolves into a wasteland of perpetual debate. The line between utility and overreach is blurry and indecipherable.

The true conflict with artificial intelligence comes with the robotization of things in our everyday lives, so much that it becomes difficult to later justify its estrangement. If we fail to worry about our robots’ unnatural takeover of life’s daily tasks—the very tasks that make us grasp the tangible essences of human existence—we cannot maintain the appropriate distance from robots to articulate a stalwart position against the future presence of artificial intelligence in the workplace.

Only by diminishing our tolerance and appreciation for robots’ accomplishing our mundane tasks, will we be able to take back our lives and livelihoods as human beings. Overcoming the real threat of artificial intelligence requires that we roll up our sleeves and tackle the hard problems, without seeking automated answers.

 

 

14 COMMENTS

  1. Automation and more use of robots may, together with new scientific and technological advances, may make the post-capitalist society envisaged by Marx come earlier and without bloody revolutions, especially if society can force governments to redirect the appetites of capitalists.

    • Let’s examine the issue of drones. Through Predictive Programming, Nefetiti’s scary thesis of robotization becomes an all too familiar and apparent nightmare. Now, even soldiers would rather sit on their asses in an air-conditioned office while drones do their killing in distant lands.

      Then what happens when we discover that flying killer robots make better soldiers than soldiers do? Or when we learn that the president is using those flying robots to kill our fellow citizens? Which beliefs do we jettison to reduce the dissonance in our troubled brains? Or do we succumb to the normatives of the brain which has been induced through Predictive Programming to make droning, as abhorrent as it comes, ever so acceptable to ourselves?

  2. Increased robotization in the modern workplace, and even at home, has become so impalpable, so useful, and sometimes such a nuisance that many lives will not only become miserable on losing it entirely, they will become putridly empty. Robots now occupy a central piece of our humanity. We have become inseparable!

    Still yet, keeping robots, and increasing their footprint in our lives, spells a future that many look upon with bleak trembling. Some of that fear is about the future of our pertinent roles as “mere laborers” in society – workers who can simply be replaced by the wag of a finger. Nefetiti paints carefully the reality and future of this tossed mixture of fortune and misfortune that arises from robotization with the same immaculate brush and spectacular canvas of form and logic, the same intelligent surrealism, that characterizes much of her essays.

    The more I write, I spoil it.

  3. how many are going to be left jobless. are we thinking about this while thinking of how efficient and relatively low cost in operating them ?????

  4. Nefetiti, you have left me an important conundrum to solve. It is great that you are drawing out attention to this conflict of interest in the use of robots. I am a professor of pharmaceutical sciences. I teach both the PhD (research) and PharmD (professional pharmacy) students at the doctorate degree levels. Luckily for me, I was trained in Ghana at KNUST and Legon at a time when we did not have all these robosts thinking for us. I use a logarithm book that I needed to know what factors I am looking for instead of of calculators that do not need me to think. Now, PharmDs or Pharmacist don’t need to know the sciences underlying the various diseases and why certain medications will cure these diseases (No Pharmacology and Therapeutics). Their cell phones will tell them what medications to use for what disease for what patients. These people who are supposed to be experts in drug therapy are now just operators of robots. If you ask them the rationale for certain important health and treatment decisions, the answer is because their computer told them so. No more thinking. What will happen if Dumsor or any other technical difficulty including hacking affects these robots? We are just being lazy and making thinking such a difficult task for some people’s profit line. If as humans, we cannot think, what is our future?

    • “If as humans, we cannot think, what is our future?” This is an important question Kwame Yeboah. In a way, the robotization of manual chores (like washing dishes) has reached the robotization of the brain (the calculator and now to medicine). We might cease to exist as we know it. That whole “I think therefore I am,” is strangely under some immense scrutiny.

  5. Brilliant essay! And then of course there’s the part about “machine learning” of AI for robots. Part of that learning has to do with the feedback loop to the robot. That loop includes the Pharmacist, the medical doctor, the nurse, the engineer, the mathematician and so on. The brain of the robot, that is the software, is continually reprogrammed using the feedback the makers receive from us to make the robot even better next year. Hence the next version – the more streamlined efficient version. And the next version, until which time the robot is now ready to replace the doctor, the engineer, the mathematician and so on. This is how it works: We start by accepting the place of a lesser robot in our lives, perhaps for reasons such as making our daily chores at home or at work a little easier, a little lighter. As the robotization increases, the software becomes better as our brains relax more and more until one day, in the foreseeable future we might become Zombies! The robots take over and we are caught wrong footed inside the proverbial Matrix!

  6. This feedback loop idea is both interesting and disheartening because I guess as the robot gets smarter, the human gets dumber. Sadly it seems that every profession in one way or another is going through robotization. People are profiting from this and we are too lazy to cease our own downfall. I do hope the human race does not turn into zombies brains but at this rate that we are swallowing technology wholesale, who knows? For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?

  7. Great article!!! Well done Nefetiti.

    Then there’s also another powerful way that robots have been made enjoyable for us, or even easily acceptable to us. How, you might ask does a man accept a tool that is essentially going to make him a “tool” in the future.

    That answer can be found in what they call Predictive Programming and the Labor Robotization Agenda. This confirms the reality and shows that the weapon of propaganda has been used against the public for decades in order to familiarize us with the idea of using robots in every facet of life – from sweeping your own house, to washing your own dishes, to washing your own clothes and to boiling your rice for you.

    Now, let’s say you sell clothes for a living. Your customers are sweepers. Since you have accepted the idea – either from adverts or tv or films – that mowers, blowers and vacuums are great for your own house then of course the sweepers who now work at Steel Manufacturing Bee must lose their jobs! See, that idea become easier for you to accept. Only you no longer have a business!

    This process is called predictive programming and its purpose is literally to program the mind of the victim so as to accept without question whatever is required by the programmer – in this case, the idea of complete robotization at some point in the future. The victim is generally unaware of being programmed, believing that it’s all just harmless entertainment, or even to help him. For this reason it can be a powerful and effective weapon against ourselves!

  8. very thought provoking…the various possible scenarios emanating from the well planned displacement of humans by robots would mark the turning point of human evolution. it also threatens 2 consign humans 2 an inferior status by ushering in a new hierarchy of beings with humans no longer the alpha species. very disturbing indeed!

  9. Interesting points my friends. Let’s also examine the issue of drones. Through Predictive Programming, Nefetiti’s scary thesis of robotization becomes an all too familiar and apparent nightmare. Now, even soldiers would rather sit on their asses in an air-conditioned office while drones do their killing in distant lands.

    Then what happens when we discover that flying killer robots make better soldiers than soldiers do? Or when we learn that the president is using those flying robots to kill our fellow citizens? Which beliefs do we jettison to reduce the dissonance in our troubled brains? Or do we succumb to the normatives of the brain which has been induced through Predictive Programming to make droning, as abhorrent as it comes, ever so acceptable to ourselves?

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