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  • Robert Farago

The Dawn of the Machines


TWC- P5 - A motorcyclist defines his quest

I was dining with Chris (not shown) and Shawn at North Italia when I had a strange thought. Everyone in the so-so Italian – diners, wait staff and kitchen workers – was human.

I was surrounded by mammals whose basic biology and social interactions haven’t altered significantly in a million years.

I imagined looking through the glass partition into the kitchen, watching robots prepare meals. I imagined a sex robot (cyborg?) sitting next to a diner, flirting and joking, keeping him amused and engaged.

Will AI robots become so realistic you’ll have to prove your biology to enter certain establishments? Will such things exist? By that I mean both human-only establishments and non-robot humans.

And then I thought about my motorcycle trip through America and Canada. It occurred to me that it’s coming at the tail end of humanity’s non-robot era.

Dystopian De-evolution?

Pondering the possibilities the next day, I asked another Chris, “how will robots change our world?” He did not hold back.

With the robots becoming more autonomous and replacing humans in the work force the economy will sink. The human need for a feeling of purpose will drop. Depression rates will increase, which has a direct effect on libido, resulting in fewer babies being born. There will be a major population shift to City centers in the hope that more livable accommodations will be accessible. The overcrowding will spike housing costs. With little job opportunities, the population will be forced out of the cities in the hopes of finding less expensive alternatives. Depending on how far they are pushed away from critical services, the life expectancy and the population will continue to contract. Without a working population paying taxes, the government will have a decrease in income and fail to provide the structure, security and services needed to protect the populace. Once the population declines, the robots will lose their purpose for existing (providing goods and services for a population that doesn't exist) and be decommissioned. The remaining population will begin to pick up the slack, begin working and slowly rebuild society.

I do not see it going down that way, especially the eventual rebound. But who the hell knows? One thing’s for sure: everything’s about to change.

There will be robots among us, everywhere. The way humans work, entertain themselves, reproduce and take care of their children will look very different than how it does now.

The Human League

The robots’ omnipresence will force us to confront what it means to be human. For example…

When robots take over our manual labor, they will take away one of humanity’s defining characteristics: making things. Not just cars, buildings and sophisticated machines. Breakfast. The bed. Everything.

Robots will also replace our habit of making things with our intellect, from social media posts to business plans to dinner reservations. Imagine an internet-enabled personal assistant who can do your work and organize your life. Like that.

As you know, that’s already happening. We’re OK with AI now because we’re in charge. We “prompt” AI to do something and decide what to do with the result.

How long before we delegate decision-making to machines that will do a better job than we do? How long before there’s an anti-robot backlash?

You think racism is a thing? Wait until “the forgotten man” sees robots marginalizing his personal and economic worth. Yesterday’s Luddites are tomorrow’s robot bashers.

Anyway, that’s in the not-distant future.

Travels with Charley

Come what May, when I hit the road this spring, I’ll be traveling through and documenting a robot-free country.

In that sense, my Travels with Charley adventure will someday be reminiscent of the Lewis & Clarke expedition of 1804: a journey through a land populated by people unaware that their way of life is doomed.

If that’s how I approach this odyssey, I’ll focus my writing on rituals. How humans gather and interact to define their lives in diners, churches, factories, sports events, celebrations, hospitals, music, etc.

Yes, I’ll describe the geography through which I’ll be riding. America’s fruited plains and amber waves are the canvas for this drama.

But I’m more interested in seeing its inhabitants’ interactions before their lives change beyond recognition.

Assuming they will. If so, what will be lost? I’m determined to find out.

 

Click here for All Travels with Charley motorcycle tour posts

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