(These are excerpts from my book "Intelligence is not Artificial")
Dystopian Quartet 2. Allegro Forte: We are Surrounded
One day i walked into the subway station of a Chinese city and looked at the wall. It has machines that sell tickets, machines that sell drinks, machines that give you cash, machines that take passport-size photos of you and even machines that sell toys. I bought my ticket and then put my bag into a machine that detects metal and then inserted my ticket into a machine that validates the ticket. I walked into an escalator that took me to my train. And, of course, the train is a machine (controlled by machines).
Traffic control is entirely automated in most cities of the world. There are machines called "traffic lights" that decide which cars have to move and which cars have to stop. They are often connected to sensors or cameras: based on how many cars are waiting in each direction of the intersection, the traffic light decides which human drivers can go through the intersection. They have replaced thousands of traffic cops. We already forgot all the jobs that has disappeared. Think of the workers of an average sawmill one century ago: machinists, saw-setter, electricians, stokers, greasers, sawyers, edgers, sorters, stackers, ... What happened to them?
We are already surrounded by machines. These machines perform a lot of jobs that used to be done by people, but today most of those people today have better-paid jobs building or selling or maintaining these machines. The Chinese are wealthier today than when they didnít have machines.
(On top of being surrounded by machines, machines are also beginning to populate and colonize our body: a number of people already live in symbiosis with a machine that has been implanted or is attached to their body, whether an artificial heart or a hearing aid).
We do not worry that these boxed machines may someday conquer the world. We, instead, react emotionally when the machine looks like a human being and walks. This has more to do with psychology than with anything else. The machines that walk and look like humans are actually the least useful. Most of them are tourist attractions: they serve to attract people into the store. Buy a Pepper robot and the whole neighborhood will come to take a picture with the robot. These walking humanoids are far less useful than the immobile machines of the subway station.
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