Does a heartfelt mea culpa make any difference?
Having signed multiple non-disclosure agreements signed in blood (kidding…sort of), you’ll understand that I can’t reveal much about what I’ve been doing to pick up extra grocery money these days. Suffice to say, I am a tech tester. If I told you any more than that I’d have to kill you.
Sure, I’d heard the hubbub about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. I don’t live under a rock. But until I started this most recent cycle of testing, I wasn’t aware of how prevalent the use of AI is across a stunning range of applications.
AI may not be running the world yet, but the machines are learning. They’re learning to develop new medicines, streamline supply chains, create diagnostic plans in hospitals, make investment decisions, develop innovative marketing strategies, and drive cars without wrecking them. Most of the time.
AI even determines how many sets of eyes find our writing.
It gets worse.
Word around the tea parlor is that by next November AI will be spewing Pulitzer-ready novels while simultaneously calculating distances between galaxies and refining Aunt Loretta’s infamous holiday plum pudding recipe.
As a late adapter to any new technology, having me in these sessions is ludicrous but in its own twisted way, it makes perfect sense.
Having a Luddite-lover such as myself really puts these gizmos to the test.
Fumbling through three hours of testing I realize that’s the point.
In order to really take over, AI-powered wearables and apps have to be easily within the manipulating abilities of even those of us who speak technology with an accent. True, there are fewer of us every day but the complete takeover can’t happen without near-full participation.
Get on the ball, old people, the machines need us.
For the record, I admit to being ambivalent about participating in these tests. However, it’s not as if I’m some innocent being dragged unwittingly into participating in something dodgy. In the past, I’ve been a teensy weensy cog in the development of things as questionable as improving military communications and robotic surgeons. When I took my concerns to one of my spiritual pole stars she smiled sadly and shrugged.
“We all have blood on our hands”
So when I have the opportunity to schedule one of these tests, I do it. However, I can’t imagine I’m endearing myself to the testing facilitators when the post-test surveys come around. Much as I’d like to lie, I think that defeats the purpose so I always admit I’ll never own whatever-it-is we’re testing.
First, I can’t afford it, and second, all of these things creep me TF out. Full disclosure: I don’t put it in those terms on their survey.
I remember my father sitting slumped over a cup of coffee in the trailer he wound up living in post-divorce and shaking his head. This was not long after he returned from a stint in the United Arab Emirates supervising the installation of then-state-of-the-art compressors used in the oil fields. He muttered that he was glad he’d be dead soon. He didn’t want to be around for what was coming.
That was in 1998. He died in 2002.
Now I kind of get where he was coming from.
Do I really want to live in a world where people in “developed” countries eagerly allow their lives to be highjacked by a virtual reality that soothes, entertains, and ultimately distracts from the crumbling 3D world around us? Do we all need gizmos that mask the terrifying reality that has already taken such a dire turn for the worse? What will we do when the electricity gets cut and we are suddenly faced with what the world has become?
I walk out of these testing sessions and wonder why no one seems to be trying to develop an AI application that will solve global inequities, feed the hungry, develop housing for everyone, and ensure that no one anywhere ever again wears Crocs.
You know, things that matter.
Consider this my heartfelt mea culpa to all the young people who got handed a broken world and are now being told to quit whining and show TF up to work on time.
It doesn’t mitigate my part in the coming apocalypse, but the world I was handed was no more functional than this one. There just hadn’t been good enough distractions developed yet. True, all our marching and shouting along with “Ohio” and writing to Congress, and signing up with the Peace Corps didn't make much of a dent.
I hope you have better luck than we did. I’m not optimistic.
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