Artificial Intelligence. The laymen understanding of Artificial Intelligence comes from dystopian futuristic landscapes where the Robots have taken over and mankind is forced to survive on scraps of food and steampunk cosplay. And if these movies are supposed to represent a post-apocalyptic landscape, where are all the roaches and where is Keith Richards? Let’s be honest with ourselves here, I doubt even the sentient artificial intelligence can figure out how to kill Keith. I don’t believe in a God of sorts, but I do believe in Kieth Richards.
But that’s the key to the dystopian hellscape that these movies depict; sentient artificial intelligence. The fear that our modern minds have manufactured about AI is that it’ll start thinking for itself, realize humanity isn’t awesome and then resort to genocide. That’s a very human response for a sophisticated piece of technological advancement that was meant to get us to utopia. The fortunate thing is that as of right now, we are not that close to any piece of technology getting that much sentience. We’re still fucking around with Bluetooth, let alone a large scale walking talking killer Austrian.
Over the last decade AI, Algorithms and Automation have become a bigger part of the cultural zeitgeist and narrative surrounding jobs. This has taken us into the 4th Industrial Revolution and much like all Industrial Revolutions, this means less people to do the same job for the same, if not more, profits. The Horse & Buggy was replaced by Cars & Trains. Maybe if the Horses Unionized they wouldn’t be relegated to Kentucky Derbies and old Budweiser Commercials. The manufacturing of cars & trains went from human hands to Giant mechanical hands. And this Industrial Revolution is no different.
And it’s not like we haven’t started to automate things already. For last 20 years we’ve had self checkouts at grocery stores. This has meant less cashiers. Or the company hires more cashiers at less pay. The Bastard of All Billionaires, Jeff “Bad Boy Bastard Billionaire” Bezos, launched Amazon Go a few years ago. This is a store with no cashiers, where you walk in, get what you need and walk out. It’s all charged through the customer’s Amazon Account.
Think of how many people would be unemployed if in the next 5 years, if all Whole Foods were converted to Amazon Go stores. The prices wouldn’t go down, but Bad Boy Bastard Billionaire would definitely get richer. And before you say “Maybe he’ll donate some of it”, a measly $10 million dollars when he cashed out over $20 billion in one month during a Pandemic is like the Average middle class person throwing a dirty penny into the cup of a homeless person and thinking they’ve changed a life.
Amazon Go uses cameras, sensors and RFID to know what you put your cart and what you didn’t and charges your account. Sure this seems like a really cool way to shop, especially in a pandemic, but what happens when Amazon decides you aren’t deserving of food because of your values and opinions? Or worse yet, you can’t afford to eat from Amazon? Technology shouldn’t be used as a gateway drug to power.
ATM’s replaced Human Tellers many years ago, and now with apps like Venmo, CashApp, PayPal and more, we’re replacing ATM’s too! Robots are getting out-roboted! We use software like Turbo Tax and Legal Zoom which have automated paperwork and replaced Tax Accountants & Lawyers. Hell the calculator replaced regular accountants, who were just people that awesome at doing math in their heads!
But in the last 5 years our conversations about automation have become more prevalent because of the introduction of self-driving cars & trucks. With the rise of ride-share companies like Lyft & Uber and Trucking being the most common job in 29 states, 3% of the world’s jobs have become driver based. We’ll get to the issue of jobs and automation in just a little bit. Self-Driving Cars work of a mix of sensors, computer data, navigational maps and algorithms that ensure they’d be able to drive as well as, if not better than humans.
And that’s one of the most prevalent arguments against self-driving vehicles of all kinds; are they better at driving than humans? The answer is a resounding ‘Fuck yeah!’. Have you seen us drive? I was on the highway last year and I watched a man text, eat a burger, do a crossword puzzle and change lanes at the same time! If that guy isn’t dead by now, he’s either a wizard or motha-fuckin Kieth Richards!
Traffic deaths across the world are incredibly high! So these self driving cars just have to be better than that. And in a lot of cases they are. A few years ago, a self driving Tesla was involved in an accident. The car ran into a truck because it couldn’t distinguish between the color of the truck and the sky. Unfortunately there were fatalities. The end result to that is no different than human drivers. Regardless of who it is, a distracted human driver or distracted robot, we’re going to have accidents that lead to lives lost.
But this is only one case out of hundreds of thousands of self-driving cars on the streets. In my hometown of Pittsburgh alone, Uber has put out many self-driving cars on the streets, which have been safe. Now they do have a driver in the car to takeover manually just in case. I know some folks must be wondering why Pittsburgh? Because Pittsburgh’s streets are far more challenging than a lot of other cities. So if the navigation, sensors and algorithms can handle that, it might be able to handle anything.
Sure some folks could say, “well if you wanted challenging drive for the robot cars, then you should’ve driven in Boston!” But once the navigation and the algorithms looked at a map of Boston, they said “no, thanks!”
Self Driving Cars are one thing, but self-driving 18-Wheelers are a totally different thing. A lot of truckers are against the idea of self-driving trucks, not only because its a risk to their jobs, but it’s also harder for automated trucks to drive as precisely as needed in cities or trucking docks. But technology improves and usually at a pretty high rate of speed too so the long term plans should be how are we going to help displaced truckers.
But Truckers and gig economy workers aren’t the only ones at risk of loosing their jobs to Automation. Out of all the probability of loosing jobs some of the highest are Loan Officers, Receptionists, Paralegals, and Security Guards. But now thanks to the advancements we’re making in utilizing automated technology in tandem algorithms, more White Collar jobs are at risk to be replaced by artificial intelligence too!
For the better part of the decade Wall St. has been run by algorithms that make trades. But Wall St. and Capitalistic financial systems are so complicated that even algorithms have a hard time figuring them out, which is why in 2010, an algorithm just lost about a trillion dollars from Wall St. I feel like we need to take a hint here and simplify our financial system. Instead of stocks, bonds, Roth IRAs, Regular IRAs, Money Market Accounts, lines of Credits, what if we just used money as a tool to help each other with good & services?
Algorithms are basically a mathematical equations and a program that is designed to do particular repetitive tasks that involve data sets. This is why lawyers are now using algorithms in their research cases. An algorithm can bring up documents, case files and papers pertaining to a particular subject up in seconds. Does this mean that a robot with this lawyering algorithm can represent someone? Technically a robot could never use the phrase “I’m just simple country robot”, because robots and AI are not simple things. They’re highly complex!
Now the issues with these Algorithms is that they are programmed by humans and therefore will have human biases. Most of the time, these researchers don’t even know that these biases exist until it’s pointed out to them and they have to rewrite more programming to fix it. Because these algorithms can be manipulated there can be both positive and negative drawbacks.
The easiest example of how algorithms rule our lives is in our social media and streaming apps. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube are all controlled by algorithms that feed you the posts, photos, videos, that they think would interest you based on your personality, mood, likes & dislikes and other data they’ve gathered about you. They’re like your creepy neighbor that watches you all the time and gets you the perfect birthday gift. Like you’re gonna accept it, but very cautiously!
They can also manufacture conflicts by showing your things that they know will elicit an argument, which will then get more people involved and keep us on their platform for longer and longer and longer and longer…and all of a sudden we’ve missed our mother’s birthday because you had to p’wn that n00b so you can be smartest of all the like chasers!
Alternative media platforms like Minds[dot]com, Rokfin, Mastadon and others don’t have this level of algorithmic control on their platform. They’re a lot more free form and that has actually led to less conflict and more discourse. Turns out when humans are programmed to receive more likes and cerotonin through the conflict instead of real discourse and understanding, it leads to more fights, less critical thought and shows us how much the algorithms control you!
In fact during the 2016 election it was revealed how a mix of algorithms, psychographics based on personality tests and social media was used to sway voters towards particular candidates. Cambridge Analytica, a British Company paid by billionaire Robert Mercer was responsible for using Facebook ads targeted at voters to sway their decisions towards Donald Trump. When Congress found about this level of election manipulation, they told Mark Zuckerberg to apologize, sit in the corner for a whole 5 minutes and to vote for them next year!
But in this same way, personality, ethnicity, health and financial data can be used by an algorithm to determine whether you’re worthy of a loan, medical care, a job, and more. And corporations that are using this data to make decisions about your life with zero transparency regarding the algorithm. If we are going to let algorithms determine our fates, then we need transparency into what data they are fed and what factors go into making those determinations. I think its only fair to know how racist these corporations are teaching these algorithms to be!
Algorithms are used in dating apps to match you with right person…well most of the dating apps. I’m pretty sure Tinder just wants to you fuck everyone, all the time and that’s a little too much fuckin’. Tinder is clearly the horniest of all the algorithms.
The positives of using this gathered data is in the way it’s used in Call Centers. People with similar personalities are going to solve problems are lot faster than those with differing ones. They lead to happier resolutions. But having a good call center experience, pales in comparison to being denied your healthcare or a loan for a house.
With this use of data, algorithms are being used to make music and movie trailers. But so far, they have not figured out how to become comedians because Algorithms haven’t figured out how to be so sad and that narcissistic at the same time. But algorithms are boiling creativity down to numbers, data and patterns. They’re taking the genre of Math Rock a little too seriously.
We can use these algorithms to help instead of punish. Rather than use this to determine whether you can or can’t get medical care, it can be used to determine what kind of medical care you need and how to get any sort of assistance you might need too. It can match you with right doctor, lawyer, or car mechanic! It could be used to prevent recidivism instead discriminate against it. Imagine how much difference this kind of technology would make with a Mutual Aid mindset rather than a Capitalist one! Denial can become obsolete.
The next phase of AI and algorithms would be to start Deep Learning. Google’s Deep Learning AI, DeepMind, was trained to form a memory. Which would mean that any automated device would be capable of learning and improving its actions based on prior knowledge. They did this by teaching DeepMind to play Atari 20 millions times.
Yes, the dystopian aspect of this is AI can be used to predict human behaviors and actions, but we’re quite a bit away from that considering DeepMind just figured out the PS 1 and even I can kick its ass in Tekken 3. Regardless, it should be something we should be aware be ready to confront if & when the time comes!
Automation, AI & Algorithms aren’t on their way, but rather they’re here. Human innovation and the need to make our own lives easier and more efficient will lead to the use of technology to help us get there. But each time we approach these points, we teeter on the verge of dystopian nightmares and utopia. Regardless the one thing we can be sure of is that Kieth Richards will be there for us at the end.
Automation is going to decrease the amount of jobs that we have. The prediction is that by 2030 over 800 million jobs globally will be replaced by automation and 73 million of those jobs will be in the US alone. The issue of unemployment from automation isn’t a result of the technology but rather Capitalism.
Within Capitalism jobs aren’t something we care about. It’s a passive relationship to work. We do whatever to earn money to so we can go to the mall and buy shit we don’t need to make ourselves feel better about being at job we don’t like. Our society believes that you can’t make money doing what you love or having a community within your work. It’s drudgery! We work for weekends and weekends alone!
The reality is that we the American workplace can be a community and you can and should make money off what you love! The bosses and CEOs are doing what they love…which is making money off the backs of the working class, so why can’t we! Work shouldn’t be something you dread, but something that brings you meaning, purpose and happiness, with a paycheck!
The problem with automation isn’t the technology or the artificial intelligence, it’s Capitalism! When technological advancements are made within Capitalism people get left behind. You don’t have to look any further than the Rust Belt and Middle America. Towns like Galesburg, IL were built on manufacturing and when the factories became more automated the Capitalist got to the reap the benefits while everyone else was hunting for bootstraps to pull themselves up with. But what happens when the bootstraps factory is also automated?
And sure there’s probably some folks out there saying “Who cares about these middle of nowhere towns! They don’t matter with their cows, working class and they’re probably all racist anyway! The coastal cities are where its at baby! New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Branson, Missouri! That’s where the life is!”
Look in 5 years New York City will be the new Atlantis due to Climate Change! Chicago, thanks to automation & the corruption algorithm, will be run by roving gangs of the Robot Mafia. Los Angeles will literally be up its own ass. New Orleans will be too drunk to know what’s happening. And Branson will be Broadway…The fact is that Middle America and the Rust Belt was a warning sign for the direction Capitalist Driven Automation will take us.
People are concerned about self driving cars, they really need to be afraid of Capitalist Driving Cars!
The epicenter of Tech based displacement is the city of San Francisco, a coastal haven for liberal and progressive politics and home to multi-millionaire and grand political theater mistress, Nancy Pelosi. Thanks to rise of tech jobs that involve AI and automation, the income divide in San Francisco is unlike any city in America. And the ones that can afford to live in that city are now the richest of the rich and those that can’t either leave or wind up homeless. And the solutions to help the homeless aren’t coming from the Tech Industry but rather average working class citizens.
But we can very easily avoid this reality by implementing one simple idea: Universal Basic Income! I know I’ve talked about the need for a UBI a lot, but in terms of Capitalist Driven Automation it’s a very needed idea to prevent the dystopian future that directors like James Cameron predicted.
If you’re unaware of what a Universal Basic Income is, it’s giving every citizen of a country a flat amount of money each month the would cover the cost of rent, food, water, health, shelter and in these days, the internet. The biggest argument against giving Americans a UBI is that people would stop working, despite there being absolutely no proof of that. In fact when the American people received an additional $600/week in unemployment, a Yale study found that a majority of people didn’t stop looking for work!
Even the Chicago Federal Reserve came to the same conclusion, as they deposited their trillions in handouts from the Democrats & Republicans. Look if the Fed can figure out taking care of Americans financial needs is a good thing, it should be a no-brainer, considering everything the Fed does comes from no brains at all.
Our culture treats money like the perfect drug. Each week, we’ll do damn near anything for get that sweet sweet paycheck! We get a hit and then keep coming back for more! And when we can’t we get desperate and start walking around the streets going “I’ll suck yo’ dick for a dollar! Just lemme see ol’ Washington!” No! That is called prostitutions and it’s illegal in this Christian Nation! You can whore for money, but you can’t BE a whore money!
Not just that, but we have we more proof that a Universal Basic Income wouldn’t deincentivise work. In 1982, in the socialist safe haven of Alaska, the state implemented a permanent Universal Basic Income. The Alaskan Permanent Fund taxed the oil under Alaska and if oil companies want to drill they have to pay. Corporations are addicted to oil and Alaska just put that addiction to good use. Oil companies were like “We’ll suck yo’ dick for that oil!” And Alaska was like “Chill out! Please put your pants back on and stop rubbing your nipples! This is genuinely horrifying! How you just give us a bunch of money in taxes for drilling?”
The UBI fluctuated and went as high as $2000/month to $800/year. People in Alaska didn’t stop working to pursue a career in being a Rockstar or an Ice Road Trucker Reality Star. They left that to the robots!
But incentive for work is something both Democrats and Republicans bark about all day, while letting their owners, the Rich Capitalists, create more unemployment and homelessness for free. The history of Alaska’s Permanent Fund is seldom addressed and so is the fact that most European countries and Canada have been enacted UBI for their citizens during the Pandemic. And it’s working!
America is the only so called ‘First World’ country that is still trying to means test if helping people financially is a good thing. This again is a study that both Democrats and Republicans are pushing for. It basically turns the poor working class of America into lab rats to see if they’re deserving of help from those on high! Study after study has proven that financially helping those in need is a good thing! At this point the duopoly is trying manufacture a result to justify their cruelty!
Now for the staunch conservatives & neoliberals who believe receiving help is a sign of weakness that only ends both physical and mental castration, we do have other ideas that do the same thing as a UBI but just slightly differently. The idea implemented through Social Democracy doesn’t deposit cash into a citizen’s account, but rather gives the people Healthcare, Utilities, Housing, and Food as public services.
You heard it here folks, for bailing out Wall St. over the American People, all of Congress and every President should be shunned! Send them off to one of Jeff Bezos islands. You know the one where he silently masturbates while an intern counts his money for him. Send them all there! And before anyone comes out and says “Well isn’t a UBI just money grubbing?” Asking for basic needs is not grubbing for money. That’s saying a Blind person is sight grubbing because they want to see a sunset!
The difference between ideas of welfare and unemployment and Universal Basic Income is that nobody gets left behind. Everyone would be getting a fair share and their needs covered. Of course everyone wants to know, “but where the money gonna come from?”If the bosses are the ones making the decision to automate and create unemployment in our society, then they can bear some of this burden.
This was actually proposed in San Francisco as a “Robot Tax”. The Tech companies fought against it. Now if we were trying to tax the robots directly and make them pay for a UBI, then I’m sure we’d get a lot of Libertarian Robots claiming Taxation is theft and quoting Ayn Rand all day, and none of us want that! The Robot Tax is no different than Andrew Yang’s Value Added Tax, which would tax the tech companies on their wealth they as they automate more technologies.
Think about it, if all this work needed 1/3 of the human population, and then automation dropped that to 10%, and there was no drop in profit, who’s seeing more of the profit? The bosses of course! They don’t give a raise the rest of 10% of the workers! But if a UBI was put into place and we taxed that enormous wealth these Capitalists are making, then we can even the playing field. I’ve done the math, 23% of a fuck ton of dollars is enough to cover the cost of a UBI.
And in reality, the working class should benefit from the fruits of Automation. If the corporate profits aren’t changing why not keep the same amount of employees, pay them the same amount and cut the work day in half. Isn’t that point of technology? To make everyone’s lives easier? The real result of automation should be a little extra leisure for the same pay.
Another simple idea to implement to make sure we don’t create a dystopia worse than Terminator: Salvation, is Worker Co-Ops. Worker Co-Ops mean that the workers own and direct the company rather having a hierarchy of managers, senior mangers, district managers, senior district managers, regional managers, senior regional managers…
This idea has actually been utilized in numerous companies. The largest of these examples is the Spanish Company Mondrogan which currently employs over 100k people with a family of 250 worker co-ops within its various industries from Retail, Industrial sales, construction and medical research.
Worker Co-Ops democratize the work place. Workers vote on contract renewals of managers. CEOs at minimum are making 300 times more than the lowest paid employee and no one really knows what a CEO does except wear suits and talk shit on the poor and occasionally have parties with sexual deviants that get suicided.
A company like Mondrogan is doing so well, that it has ability to set up its own university to help employees and average students run their own co-ops and teach the advancements in the technologies within the industries they work in. Capitalist Corporations just put a photo of the CEO, make you pledge allegiance to them and then tell you Unions will suck the souls of your babies.
And American corporations don’t allow Asian or European corporations to work with our labs or offices. Mostly because European and Asian corporations aren’t looking to downgrade their employees. In reality American individualism with the greed and competitive nature of Capitalism has made America very unappealing. And it seems like the people are that are making America Great Again are the Spanish! It’s that old adage, nobody expects the Spanish Corporations!
In a Capitalist Driven Education system like ours, the notion of Worker Co-Ops aren’t even discussed. Hell the idea of Co-Ops in general isn’t discussed. I didn’t know that there were grocery store co-ops till I was 28! Saying there is only way to conduct business is assuming there’s only one type of intersection in the world. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s a bit complicated, sometimes it looks complicated but in reality is very easy and sometimes it’s a pile of spaghetti!
Mondrogan has grown from being a 6 person Co-Op in 1956 to a 100k + employees! And because they’re self aware and not greedy, they talk about if that’s too large of company to sustain with it’s co-ops or if they should sell portions of the company directly to their employees. If you’re wondering how these workers can afford to buy out a corporation, it can be done so via Public Banks and Churches!
Capitalist Corporations are more concerned with how much profit they made and what rare animal can hunt and eat for the sport of it. “This week maybe a playtapus stuffed into a duck. Bring me a Ducktapus!” That’s neither logical nor Christian. Guys I’m pretty sure Jesus was a pescatarian and eating a Ducktapus is probably a cardinal sin of kind!
Worker Co-Ops will completely change the way we look work in our culture. It won’t be a passive relationship with employment as something we do to buy more shit, but rather something we do to fulfill our lives, better our communities and the world around us. With automation in mind, Worker Co-Ops would ensure when there’s less unemployment and if your job is replaced, you’re still taken care of by the community that you worked along side. Worker Co-Ops are basically friends you work with that would help you move just because they like you!
Author Vivek Wadwha claims that automation means we will have to rethink Capitalism. And there is a notion of “Human Centered Capitalism”, but usually it’s torn down by the greed that every Capitalist has at the center of their cash covered hearts. And yes, that’s plural hearts because they’ve purchased more than 1!
We have “Right to Work” to states which grant you to work and that’s about it. No right to healthcare, decent pay, or even potty break. Just work. This is Jeff Bezos wet dream come to legislative life.
The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, written by Ohio & New Jersey based Republicans and approved by Democratic President Harry Truman, undid collective bargaining and depowered the Unions, essentially granting corporations ownership of their workers.
Both Democrats and Republicans demonize socialism at every turn despite giving handouts to the rich on a daily basis. We’re now living in a world where an entire generation of young people don’t think that’s a dirty word and an entire generation old people that think it’s Genghis Khan level tyranny, because they’re too tired to read a book from working all day for little pay.
And we’ve reignited the flames of McCarthyism at every turn. If there’s a video of Hilary Clinton calling black people super predators and ignoring Black Lives Matter Activists, that’s Russia. If Joe Biden has a mental breakdown over his rape allegations and says something racist and then calls everyone a ‘jive turkey’, that’s Russia. Trump can’t get his shit together to take care of the people during a Pandemic and denies science, that’s Russia and China!
Capitalism can’t be reformed and it’s most certainly not human centered. The fundamental principle of Capitalism is greed and to put a dollar sign on everything. It’s a toxic system and the only way to reform Capitalism is to leave Capitalism. And this makes a lot of sense to me as a Divorced man.
Automation, AI and Algorithms are technological advancements that are meant to make the lives of every single person better. Automation, much like Thanos, is inevitable. If we render ourselves obsolete only to make a few people richer, then what’s the point. If we really want to avoid a dystopia where the Robots take over and want to hunt and kill us because we’re awful, then we should strive to be less awful! Rather than running a top heavy economic system hellbent on being number 1 against itself, if we can ran an economy on compassion, logic and understanding, maybe the Robots won’t want to make flags out of our skin.
The purpose of humanity can be to create, innovate and improve each other’s live as a community. We shouldn’t have to choose between technological advancements and putting food on your table. That’s Capitalism asking you to make that Sophie’s Choice. Technology partnered with a Human Centered economic model can make us a Global Worker Co-Op instead of a Dystopian nightmare hellscape with a very lonely Kieth Richards!
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!