Kill the programmers. Save the world
The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment
– Warren Bennis
In anticipation of this event I already have the dog. My wife came with a Basset hound (not a real dog) and while Warren Bennis wasn’t breed specific, I can only deduce from his lack of a caveat, that he never owned a Basset hound. Responsibility is not really their forté. In fact I often find myself both befuddled and amused that such a creature exists. After-all canis familiaris comes from genetically engineering a sub-species of wolf. It casts serious doubt on… well… the mentality of the French for starters.
Our world is in a constant state of flux1. Which I’m largely appreciative of, since for the most part, I am quite partial to a bit of impermanence. It keeps things interesting. And for as long as anyone can remember, futurists, carnival psychics, weathermen, Delorean aficionados and more recently economists have tried to forecast tomorrow.
 My proclivity is to add capacitor here. I marvel at my ability to resist the urge.
When I was a toddler I fell out of the wash basket I was using as coracle and smashed my head into the galvanized post of the clothes line. The result was a nifty scar (not unlike Harry Potter). The blunt force trauma however to my third eye (and surrounds) was less endearing and unfortunately debilitating. It meant I was never able access my chakra’s and my ability to predict the future has, as a result, been severely impaired. (Basically zero) Although you could argue that this makes me just like everyone else. Apparently its this amazing commonality that we all share. Regardless of race, gender, political ideology or fiber intake… one of those great egalitarian forces at play.
I can however still make some assumptions about the future and then hypothesize. Which is not unlike mental masturbation. You can practice it on your own and it’s relatively fun.. but really the payoff is short lived and its mortifying if you’re ever caught with your pants down. We still do it though. Some of us daily and routinely. Hypothesize I mean. We suppose things. And then take steps to combat something that hasn’t happened yet. And potentially may never happen.
The opposite of this is mindfulness (I think). It’s something I’ve been trying to cultivate recently. But it’s really hard. Especially since the future seems quite exciting and potentially somewhat comforting to us. Somewhere out there in the future there is a version of us that is, hopefully, better than what we are now. Although why this should be of solace to us is a little worrisome. Doesn’t that mean that the current version of us is less than optimal? Or even defective somehow? Why do I plan on being better at some future yet undetermined date? What’s wrong with me right now? (besides the obvious I mean)
In any event, while you’re sitting in your little corporate cubicle farm, ready to minimize your Social media tab at a moments notice, you are failing to grasp the grim reality of your situation…
Right now, somewhere, someone is writing code meant to replace you in your job. They don’t hate you. (well… they might) This is just the way of things…. and the sooner you realize you are basically an inefficient, time-wasting meat sack with a heartbeat the better off you’ll be.
This machine is guaranteed to be way better at your job than you. No more coming in late, no more smoke breaks. No more sniffing glue or blow off the toilet seat during lunch. No more browsing Pornhub or tweaking your manufactured Instagram life during office hours. In fact, lets be honest, if you weren’t around the company would probably save A LOT of money. And the work would actually get done! Why wouldn’t they want to replace you with a machine? I suppose if you were REALLY good looking they might keep you around. But ugly people are screwed, efficiency all the way.
Lately I’ve been endearing myself to the other parents in the toddler birthday scene. ‘Hopefully you’re not planning on steering your son or daughter to take up medicine?’ I mention offhandedly. This makes the other adults clustered in the defensive bulwark shift uncomfortably and avoid eye contact. They sense Jo is about to launch into a soliloquy but none of them want to be the one to set him off on his tirade.
‘It’s like wanting your child to become an alchemist. You’re being an irresponsible parent’, I continue, ‘in the future all surgery will be done by robots. Insanely more accurate than your inefficient son or daughter with their shaky hands and opioid addiction problems’. ‘Medicine as we know it will no longer exist. We will still need plumbers though. And probably electricians. Infinitely better career choices in my opinion’. (I channel my inner Mike Rowe2 here)
 Whom I love. (despite his affinity for Fox news)
Going forward I think we have two survival choices. (There may be more, but at the moment my binary brain can only think of two) You can turn yourself into a highly specialized freelancer or you can become an entrepreneur. Neither of these can (as far as I can tell) be easily or cheaply replicated by a machine. And there should (theoretically) always be a demand for both.
Or you can make so much money now that you won’t have to worry about the future. That is also an option.
I’m making the assumption that the machines don’t rise up and kill us all first. After all how many programmers do you think there are right now, sitting in their y-fronts drinking Red bull and mucking about with AI. One of them is sure to get it right one these days. Nevermind the terrorists! We should be rounding up the programmers!
If we act now we can…
- Stop the technological advance and save millions of jobs.
- Stop the unemployed starving masses rising up and murdering the all the 2%ers.
- Preserve the status quo. (it seems pretty okay at the moment imo)
- and… Potentially save humanity
Now we just have to debate whether humanity is worth saving…
Postscript – I clacked this out at pace, at work one day, so pre-pandemic, when I still had a ‘real’ job. I had (quite arbitrarily) that AI was… twenty years down the road maybe. Certainly not, ‘just around the corner’. ‘Born too late to explore the world. Born too early to explore the stars. Born just in time to witness the birth of the machine-god‘.