The G9-45, Enterios’s latest and greatest in un-capped, fully autonomous androids, debuted in a limited sale on Ottsalia last week. Leveraging the most adaptable AI ever produced, it is capable of handling nearly all tasks formerly requiring a human user – completely eliminating the need for human labor, if you can afford the price tag. Though organic staff members may still oversee them in some workplaces, they will likely soon be replaced by robots.
This is a revolutionary product that will likely change the way all manner of businesses operate in the near future. Employee overhead – salaries, training, overtime, health care – will soon be a thing of the past. The customers will be pleased with the convenience, too. No more queuing, waiting for a human employee to catch up during a sudden rush. No more interacting with indifferent staff.
While this is certainly the way forward, there is also a downside that needs our consideration. The jobs most likely to be replaced tomorrow, even by lower grade androids, are some of the most common in our economy, employing undervalued workers making a modest income.
Many of these jobs do not require lengthy education and as such support those unable to break into other industries. Most of them will likely find themselves jobless.
The fear of being rendered obsolete is not new. The year after the original E3-10 model was released, beloved pulp author Houron He’zat released their novel “Stainless Steel Conspiracy” – wherein elderly factory owner Tiffon Grell replaces all of her human employees with a grand, single AI control unit.
Ms. Grell’s economic justification of “The power costs 2 credits an hour to run … it lasts as long as parts are available … it gets no dementia, no back pain, no influenza … one of them replaces a hundred workers and needs no breaks, no sick leave, no vacations with pay” is difficult to refute.
In the novel, Grell’s machine ends up not only replacing the manual laborers but soon all of the executives as well.
The fears expressed in He’zat’s novel have largely come true: Most large factories have ceased employing human labor; human assistants are largely obsolete; the jobs that created our middle class are no longer available.
But AI runs far deeper than the simple mechanization of routine tasks.
Consider fiction writing – a task always relegated to humans. After their purchase by Enterios last year, the quarterly fiction publication “True Stories” has let go nearly half of their human writing staff.
AI “authors” have churned out nearly 100 pieces for them, two of which are under consideration for this year’s Quasar Prize.
We are looking at a not so distant future where AIs will replace even our skilled workers. Our MedTechs. Perhaps even our politicians. No amount of additional training and education will allow a human to compete with them on equal footing.
If this is not dealt with now, imagine the chaos. The economic upheaval. The animosity of displaced human workers towards the companies that have lead us down this path.
Of course, we cannot abate the flow of progress. But what we can do is enact sensible legislation and AI limitations that lead us to a more amenable future. We cannot wait until the crisis is upon us; we must act today.
In the end, even Ms. Grell is rendered obsolete – by her AI construct. He’zat’s grim parting words ring true: “Humanity has become comfortable rather than wise; clever rather than prudent. They have the ability to invent themselves into extinction.” I sincerely hope this is not the fate we have doomed ourselves to.
~ Pailen Zo’scam