Coffee and Contemplation: The Ghost in the Machine

Jul 30, 2018 at 10:00 am by The Old Wolf


Before we pour this week’s cup of mental java, I’d like to make you aware of an article I did some time ago for The Murfreesboro Post. You can find it here.

You don’t have to read it to understand or enjoy the article below, but hopefully, it will enhance your appreciation of the topic I am about to explore.

Artificial Intelligence or AI

For some people, it is a series of calculated responses to fixed stimuli. One could say it has been around for decades with the advent of automated agents that people have been interacting with on phone menus.

Siri is a form of AI that has been learning from its users for many mundane applications. Alexa is an AI for the home that basically functions like Siri for your house. If you’ve ever seen a Marvel movie with Iron Man in it, Jarvis is an extreme form of AI that exists only in the realm of superheroes…for now.

Software bots are smaller, simpler forms of AI and are pervasive in our society. They run in the background of our lives guiding our choices and interacting with us in ways most people don’t even recognize.

The self-checkout register at the grocery store. The algorithms that drive Facebook. The unseen censors that decide which videos pop up in your Youtube search. GOOGLE.

Physical automation is a familiar concept now, with industrial robots performing repetitive, labor-intensive jobs that we’ve grown comfortable with.

We don’t even think about how cars are made with them usually. Something has changed, however.

Now, mental automation is here. Not just on the horizon, but already replacing jobs you would never think possible and you don’t…even…know it.

White collar jobs are going to become a rapidly shrinking job market.

Lawyers will have software bots that do basic discovery for them, draft legal documents.

Teachers will become fewer with the rise of a “Digital Aristotle,” an AI tutor personalized for your child’s educational experience. Think of the home school applications of this concept.

IBM’s “Watson” is already revolutionizing how health care can be handled.

Creative fields will also be touched by the coming AI revolution. AI bots already exist that can paint, compose music, and even write articles for newspapers. 

So…surely all those people will simply shift into other jobs, right? Somebody is going to need to write all those AI programs, yes?


AI programs are already writing other AIs. And doing it better than we can.

Some of you are going to point out some of the humorous AI written things circulating around Facebook. Remember, AIs are learning programs and can run every imaginable possibility for any problem a million, million generations till it

With the advent of AI, it’s never a matter of IF. It’s a matter of WHEN.

AI is going to come.

It’s going to run your homes, drive your cars, move your freight, prescribe your medications.

It’s already happening. Not rapidly, but quick enough that it’s going to change things significantly in ways that if we are not ready for it will usher in a lot of chaos.

Alexa and Siri are toys to get us comfortable with the idea of AI doing things for us. Microsoft is running commercials that focus entirely on the concept of selling you AI Not a physical product, but a software concept. A literal Intellect. IBM’s “Watson” has an entire commercial series based on showcasing how it is being implemented into, and supplanting, the workforce.

So, in closing what I hope I have poured into your mugs, dear readers, is the dark warm beverage of foresight.

I could write ad nauseam about how I feel technology and in particular automation—physical, mental, and creative—will impact the future of society. Instead, I am going to leave you with one thought, in particular, I’d like you to dwell on. I’ll be coming back to it as the focus of a future article. 

What happens when there are more people than jobs?

It’s going to happen. Not IF. WHEN.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my musings and will return for more. The Old Wolf has enjoyed sharing. Or IS it The Old Wolf?!?

Footnote: Some of the points I have addressed here, dear viewer, could be supported by some videos that will inform or possibly entertain to some degree. I list them here in the end for you to sample at your leisure instead of fragmenting the narrative above.

I hope you find them interesting.

Further readings

1) CPG Grey's "Humans Need Not Apply".

2) Microsoft's AI commercial.

3) IBM's "Watson" commercial.


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