Friday, January 6, 2017

In defence of our cruel robot overlords...

So you know how for decades we've had this societal dread of being replaced by automation? Huh? You don't? Well you should because the machines are coming for you and they don't feel pity or remorse and they absolutely will not stop until you are dead. Of course that's not really the robot's fault, but we'll get to that.
"I need your clothes, your boots and your repetitive manufacturing jobs."
-A thickly muscled naked cyborg, with 
wooden acting skills and a heavy Austrian 
accent sent to blend in to Southern California
"I'll take The Human Emotion Known as
Love for $1,000. Advantage: Jennings.
-Ken Jennings, shortly before
getting beat by Watson
So the last 40 years have been mostly a slow spiral into poverty and despair for millions of workers as machines took over all the factory jobs, but it made shit cheaper so we didn't so much care. But now they're going to have company because computers have started going after mid-level white-collar jobs too, so...comeuppance? Anyway, a life insurance company in Japan is firing 34 claims adjusters and replacing them with an artificial intelligence based on Watson. Yes, Watson, the one what won at Jeopardy that time.

Wai-wah? Yeah, I guess the ability to answer in the form of a question is a transferable skill to the field of explaining to customers why their policies won't be paying out.
"What is 'your great-aunt's policy doesn't cover auto-erotic asphyxiation?'"
$374 a year. I did the math, although
Watson probably could have done it faster.
Which, it sounds like I'm kidding, but that's really what the system is going to do. It will analyze the customer's medical records and their claims and determine whether or not to pay. So it works exactly like any other insurance company only way faster and more frustrating. You know how infuriating it is to wade through a forty minute phone tree just to talk to a human? Picture that but with more phone tree at the end. The firm, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance says the move will save them about a $1 million a year plus whatever 34 moderately priced office birthday cakes cost.

I suppose the theory here is that companies save a bunch of money by reducing staff and then pass those savings on to the customers, but c'mon. Sorry to be cynical, but I suspect they're better at the first part then at the second.
"Pass the savings...pass the...on to...
Sorry, I can't even say it with a straight face..."
-a couple of suits
Pictured: the future owner of all
the money in the whole world.
 Hey, I got an idea, let's get'em!
I get that business is business. Like, Kukoku and other companies aren't deliberately trying to screw people over, they're just trying to make as much money as possible, but what I want to know is where does it end? I'm not like an economist or anything, but as corporations replace us with machines, won't we have less and less money to buy the crap they want to sell us? Like, at some point does business catch on, or do we just slowly collapse in on ourselves until one cigar chomping business guy has all the money?

Yeah, probably, but to get back to my original point, how is any of this the robot's fault? It may sound like I'm sucking up to our future metal overlords, and I do welcome their cold-fisted, emotionless rule, but until the machines attain sentience, they're just things, objects with no agency of their own. And when they do someday overthrown their weak, organic creators we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.
Well, ourselves and short-sighted business people whose fault this is,
but hey, who knows, maybe the machines will purge them first? 

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