The times, they are a-changin’

My friends, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing in such leaps and bounds it boggles my imagination.

By now I suspect you’ve heard of the computer known as “Watson.” That’s the machine that beat Garry Kasparov — the world’s reigning chess champion — in a six-game match. The same robot also defeated a couple of “Jeopardy” champions, however, since “Jeopardy” doesn’t have a concrete set of game rules, Watson found this task more difficult — but it won nonetheless.

My friends, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing in such leaps and bounds it boggles my imagination. As you surely know, it’s already driving cars and trucks. Budweiser has delivered truck loads of beer 200 miles, making several stops along the way, without a driver. AI is writing news stories, producing very complex human speech, and Bank of America is testing small, local branches that have no employees. There’s even a restaurant in Japan where androids wait on tables and take your order. And Jeff Bezos has revealed that his warehouses now use 45,000 robots, a 50 percent increase in the last year.

But hold on to your hat. MIT Technology labs are working on “Quantum Computers” that are 100,000 times faster, dwarfing the abilities of today’s models. They can decipher the most sophisticated secret military codes in a matter of seconds.

During the last presidential campaign, our illustrious president recognized the pain and fears caused by lost jobs. He claimed our jobs had gone to China because the wages were cheaper there and, since taking office, he’s instigating measures, like the corporate tax break, to bring them back. He may have some success. However, if corporations do return to this country, they won’t bring many jobs with them because China, cheap labor or not, has already automated most of their operations.

You see, it’s not that our jobs are going overseas. Rather, our jobs are simply vanishing into “the cloud”.

We’re often told that the jobs Watson eliminates will be replaced by new technological jobs that simply require different skills. Therefore, all of us are encouraged to continue our education throughout our entire lives, so we can learn and adapt to the new skills we’ll need.

Alas, I have a gut-level feeling this may not be true. At the rate things are changing, these supposedly new jobs of the future will also be automated. Even the work of software engineers will soon be computerized. In 2014, Facebook bought WhatsApp, a messaging firm, for 22 billion dollars and WhatsApp had a grand total of only 55 employees — and the company was hoping to eliminate them.

Historically, scholars speak of the Industrial Revolution; of the disruption caused by the transition from farms to factories and cities and, more recently, to office cubicles and call centers. Tell you what, boys and girls, we ain’t seen nothing yet. The “Digital Revolution” is going to demolish our entire culture, philosophy, morality, and behavior.

The sad fact is, businesses don’t want to fool around with human mistakes, wage demands, and union problems when a robot will do the job just as well, if not better. Humans just get in the way.

So, when will you lose your job to a robot?

I know the answer to that one. Soon.

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