Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Warning Will Robinson. Warning. You will very soon not even be able to act the part of being in charge.

Robots doing more physical tasks in the workplace will undoubtedly continue. Just as software has already made the number of people required to do a whole range of processes fall precipitously; whether mechanical arms and sensory apparatus are involved or not.

This is not news. It is, in fact, practically a cliche now. Just as the standard response that any workers replaced will have new technical opportunities they can retrain for; to supposedly design or maintain these systems. Leaving aside the question of how ever increasing iterations of retraining are going to be paid for, let alone endured, or whether software will capture these as well, one is left to ask the question: Why are these stories presented as news?

Or maybe that's not quite the right way to put it. Maybe the question is why are these presented in the same kinds of serious tones as would more bad weather, more crime, or more political unrest. In other words as a part of the daily dirge of what you should be worried about, and/or afraid of.

Are they warning us, however unconsciously, of the ever more problematic nature of human skill as a commodity? Is the fear instilled meant to provide counter weight to any nascent desire of labor to reorganize so as to better protect its dwindling stake in any say of how the fruits of production are divided? Surely there must be some bottom line motivation here. If it is not a call to do something to counter this situation than mustn't it be for ulterior motives? Self serving from some frame of reference?

The question then becomes which frame of reference? And by implication, what criteria do we use to determine who would be likely to have such a frame of reference? And lest you are now ready to come to what might seem the obvious conclusion let me provide a caution.

Greedy Capitalists might certainly seem likely targets here, but there is an even more terrifying scenario that may be at play. The problem is, as humans compete with electrified skill retrieval systems, and they are thus left with less income as a result, who is going to buy the ever increasing largess of this new found robotic productivity? Are they going to create virtual people to live virtual lives tied to the robotic production? Are they going to keep the rest of us around to serve as a kind of retro accoutrement of entitlement? The more of such servitors being the final arbiter of status? Hoping therein that, between the entitled and the rest of us, enough consumption can continue?

Distasteful as those might be, what is even more frightening is the prospect that they simply don't have a clue as to what they are heading towards as they work this inherent contradiction to its ultimate point of collapse. Perhaps having some notion of the motives listed above in the back of their minds, but not really knowing how it would be done, or maintained, and being otherwise too preoccupied with spending, and/or making more to spend.

In the meantime these milestones of so called progress get reported, for the most part, simply because they are there and ought to mean something; the serious tone more front than anything else so as to suggest the reporters are doing more than just filling air time. Or perhaps they are the truly frightened and they are seriously hoping somebody will figure this out in time.

I will leave you with one last question. Who is left to figure it out? Who is left to do anything about it?Who is reading this report?