"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Saturday, February 19, 2011

transhumanism? thoughts on our robot futures.

litmus test: is this frightening? Y/N

remember when people used to worry that the future would be bleak because we'd be captured and enslaved by a superior robot race? remember how ridiculous that sounds? now, remember how simple life was when everyone used landlines (actual pre-planned play dates! if you wanted to have a date you actually had to plan and keep your promises!) and dial-up internet was new wave? remember when Cyber Monday didn't exist? remember when calling an office line or a toll-free number meant waiting on the line to speak to an operator, before interfacing with voice-recognition software and keypad menus (to then be put on hold to speak to someone) became commonplace to modern existence? even i remember those days.

as technology advances, computers become faster, more efficient, more accurate and (more significantly) cheaper at performing the jobs formerly held by humans. imagine a DMV line made expedient and seamless by a wall of computers instead of bulky attendants and clerks. how sleek an LCD screen can be compared to the bulbous inconsistency of humankind!

technological advancements occur at increasingly rapid paces. perhaps out-pacing evolution and the rate of human biological development. it's no wonder a consistently frightening convention of fiction and fantasy is the image of an inanimate object coming to life and possessing the ability to move, change, and destroy. [Cf. Poltergeist, Chuckie, kids' cartoons(?)]

what with technology being (and becoming) what it is, it's expected that machines and computers will come to replace (and out-perform) human employees in many current jobs. while it may come as no surprise that toll takers, for example, have been replaced, the machines are coming for YOUR job next. librarians, postal workers, Blockbuster staff recommenders, watch out! it might seem impossible for computers to perform the jobs of doctors, lawyers, poets and teachers, those jobs that require a unique human brain with the capacity for judgement, critical thinking, creativity, and insight. but consider this: travel agents no longer exist because you can Wiki-travel any destination for yourself. who's to say WebMD won't come to replace professional medical advice in the future? i've already witnessed a robot performing the jobs of a lab assistant in a hospital, couriering blood tests from one medical wing to the other:

and while it takes a special grasp of language, its lyricism and rhythm, to compose the most compelling poetry and prose, randomized text generators can create a free association of words reminiscent of poetics. podcasts of lectures and language lessons can provide an educational experience without the hallowed walls of an educational institution.

before i get too Glen Beck on you all, i guess what i'm trying to say is "no kidding the job market sucks right now." i may have sparkling credentials and an imperturbable work ethic, but so do hundreds of thousands of other jobless applicants. and still, computers will never unionize for health insurance and better pay and better working conditions.

as long as we keep finding ways to replace human workers with computers, and as long as the human population keeps rapidly growing, the gap between job availability and job need will be ever-expanding. kids will continue working on the illusion that they can go to school and work hard and accrue millions of dollars of debt and emerge gainfully employed in the end. only to find a life of depressing retail work and fast-food service await them. back to adolescence, back to where you started. no wonder people are turning to television and Chatroulette and endless escapism. endless, vicious cycle of technology-dependence. and yet, all of us were quaking in our homes on the eve of Y2K, clutching our piles of firewood for strength, hoping the computers would survive the wipeout. shucks, we missed an opportunity.

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