Q. How can we prevent certain populations from being discriminated or marginalized by AI?
A. You act like you care, but you really don’t care. Why? Because the AIs that are real today in use, raise no eyebrows.
What do you care about a TV repairman? What do you care about the career of a gas station attendant? Gas pumps are smart now. What about all of the people in the film processing industry who lost their jobs to digital cameras? What about all the lumberjacks who lost their living because people started using plastic bags instead of paper? What does anyone care about the consolidation of the lens grinding business when disposable contact lenses were engineered by computers? What about all the skilled draftsmen in factories who were eliminated by CAD?
When’s the last time you got something delivered to you by a courier.. oh wait.. there’s huge numbers of courier jobs now because Doordash, Grubhub and Postmates are all automated by AIs who calculate the fastest way to get to a house where somebody on a smartphone ordered whatever. Ever worry about the guys whose job it was to fix telephone booths? Ever worry about the people who used to work for the Yellow Pages? What about travel agents? They’re gone. What about the millions of secretaries and clerks who used to type and use file cabinets and keep track of schedules for management and professionals?
Do you have any idea how many people have lost their jobs at Xerox because now you can buy a copier from Best Buy? Do you realize how large Kodak used to be compared to what it is now? Do you know how many independent CPAs and tax preparers have been put out of business by Turbo Tax? Go into a bank that was built in the 70s and count the number of teller windows compared to the number of actual human tellers. 6 to 1 in my neighborhood. Been to a fast food joint recently? Most of them still have two windows, one for the cashier and one for the food server. Cashiers are dinosaurs, man. But nobody cares.
How many movie theaters do you think are going to reopen after COVID? That depends on Netflix doesn’t it? You may not have noticed it but one of the biggest algorithm contests in history was sponsored by Netflix. There are no algorithms for movie theaters. You just read the newspaper and see who has the best movie review… oh wait. Nobody delivers newspapers or reads movie reviews any more. More careers lost that nobody cares about.
Here’s what I see. The only traditional careers that are going to remain intact are those jobs where people are servants. Because everybody wants to be treated like royalty no matter how small and insignificant they actually are. They want their egos stroked and their butts kissed, waxed, despeckled, buffed and shined.
Barbershops, coffee shops, nail shops, massage parlors, spas, restaurants, hotels, farmers markets, hairdressers, shoe shiners, couriers, drivers, baggage handlers, bellhops, receptionists, waitstaff, cooks, bottle washers, dog walkers, bartenders, tour guides, buskers, jesters, jokers, street musicians, street peddlers, drug dealers, gardeners, groundskeepers, janitors, flunkies, flacks, tools and stooges. What you need in this world is the ability to smile and bow and never say anything offensive. The customer is always right.
Are you starting to get the picture? The new middle class is going to be a class of servants, who don’t build anything but the confidence of the people they serve. All they will manipulate and control are people’s feelings. Do you want to be reassured? Would you like some comfort? Someone to talk to? Somebody to give you some space? Somebody to get rid of those annoying people who are harshing your mellow?
Oh yeah I forgot to mention the other edge of the new age. Security. If you’re going to live like royalty, you do need extermination services for the discomforts of life. AIs ain’t going to do that for you. You need boots on the ground, hands on servants of the burly kind. Bodyguards, doormen, bouncers, mall cops, school cops, traffic cops, highway cops, beat cops, beatdown cops, jailers, trustees, corrections officers, parole officers, riot squads, vice squads, mounted police, sharpshooters, entry teams, hostage rescue teams, SWAT teams, K9 patrols, gang interdiction, narcs, dispatchers, detectives, criminologists, cyberwarriors, helo pilots, crime scene investigators, and the occasional undercover informant, infiltrator, stoolie, rat and unofficial greaseball muscle. That, my pedegree chums will keep your royal gluteus in pristine safety.
So now you understand the simple kind of human behavior that has not, will not and cannot be proxied over to bit munching programs. On the other hand, you might be the genius startup that figures out how to build robots who can fool the people of the future. After all, the people of the future don’t understand humanity because they are glued to their smartphones and game consoles as the children of today.
OK I’m not really that cynical. I’m just reading Snow Crash for the first time. Happy Labor Day.