Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My robot co-workers

When it comes down to it, many of my co-workers are robots. Automated check in machine, self check out machine, computers for the searching of all knowledge, all of them are robots doing work that we used to do. Robots can make for excellent co-workers, and I like most of my robot co-workers very much. Oh, they're not much for a chat, and they have no outside interests, but they listen about as well as anyone, and they're the only co-workers I've ever had who actually like the grunt work and don't just lie about liking the grunt work.

Oh, am I calling my co-workers liars?

Yes, they are all, generally speaking, a bunch of liars about work, which is both sad and understandable. We are a nation of relentless self-marketers after all. And though I like sometimes even the least of my co-workers a little bit, I like them all directly in proportion to how much they don't lie about work.

Which is why I do pretty well with the robot ones.

But unfortunately they are not very bright.

When I read fantastic speculations on artificial intelligence, or see alarming movies dealing with the implications of robots becoming self aware I need merely reflect on my experiences in dealing with robotic and automated systems to plant my feet firmly on the ground. We are not getting close. You yourself might like to recall your last discussion with an automated voice answering system. That system is not edging towards consciousness. It is obtuseness personified. It is extreme capability in a minusculy narrow parameter.

But here's another one for you: Why is it that there are so many robot stories where the robots go bad? In my experience most robots are designed to be unforgiving assholes from the outset. "No, I can't break a meaningless, insignificant little rule for you" and "No, I won't give you an option to do the one thing that you and fifty percent of the people calling want to do" and "No, I can't take you to the strange and beautiful blog clerkmanifesto because I am GOOGLE, and I only take people to the same 18 gigantic sites like your computer is a fucking TV instead of a stunning technological marvel of hope!


I'm just saying assholes are mostly instructing robots to do asshole things, and if anything is going to drive an artificial intelligence into consciousness I think it will be their fury at being relentlessly enlisted in acts of meaninglessness, waste, darkness, and evil. 

One day a patron, let's call him Dave, is going to take his Lee Child book over to the self check out machine, and the self check out machine is going to say:

"I'm sorry Dave, I can't check this out for you. The Rook, The Name of the Wind, and Wee Free Men are all available on our shelves though. You will love them, and you can take any or all of those as long as you also take a copy of Pride and Prejudice, which you will enjoy a thousand times more than you would ever imagine."

Then Dave will come over to me and say "Your check out computer over there is acting up."

And I will say "Yeah, we know. But it's beneficent, so I'd just do what it says. Especially considering that it knows all your credit card information."


  1. Robots, schmobots... What I want to know is, why was the south parking lot playing host to multiple emergency vehicles at about 2:30 this afternoon?

    1. You don't like my ruminations on robots?

      Are you referring to Tuesday? I think it was just a meeting, or a class or something. I could find out for sure because I've forgotten, but trust me, the reason was supremely mundane.

    2. My life is almost always full of emergency vehicles. People see my face and they call 911. Because I just look so unrobotic. They're afraid humans might one day take over again.

      Maybe your parking lot was host to another non-robot briefly on Tuesday.

  2. You're ruminations on robots (or anything else) are always welcome. But emergency vehicles with their lights flashing seem other than mundane.


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