Project 313 – Post No. 073

A few posts ago, I mentioned Wabi-Sabi and how tourists value “hand-made” trinkets over mass-manufactured trinkets. But, how does one know if something is man-made by a true artisan of the culture or man-made by cheap labor in a third world country?

Some of the hand-sewn Hawaiʻian quilts one can find in local shops are hand-sewn but imported from elsewhere. Plus, sewing machines can now be programmed to produce irregular stitches making it seem as if the product was hand-sewn. 

Soon — if not already — automation will be good enough to mimic the imperfections of humans. In fact, AI-driven machines may surpass human ability to make something look like it was made by a human. 

It’s a bit ironic, don’t you think? If some artisan slaves away at making something and by sheer determination and skill manages to produce a flawless product, people might think it was mass-produced. Clams face the same issue when making pearls. 

I just read somewhere that artificial diamonds are now better at being diamonds than actual diamonds. 

I mention all this because we’re entering a time when the way we value things — anything from human labor to products to services — is likely to be up-ended by “smart” machines.  

There are two camps when it comes to talking about the coming (if not already here) AI revolution.

One camp maintains AIs — like other technological innovations in the past — will create jobs, not take them away. 

The other camp maintains that this is truly different; AI and AI driven machines will replace most jobs. 

Let’s look at two examples at opposite ends of the technological spectrum.

First, self-driving trucks. About four million men hold jobs involving some sort of driving. They will all be eventually replaced. The support infrastructure (processing, planning, loading, unloading, scheduling) will also suffer a large reduction if not outright replacement. Some people maintain this will create jobs but what kind of jobs? A typical 40+ truck driver with a High School diploma is not all of a sudden morph into a computer tech. Per everything I see coming down the line, those people will be out of their jobs and the only replacement jobs are likely to be lower paying and subject to increased competition thus ensuring the pay will remain low. They will, in fact, overlap the generation of truckers that would have eventually replaced them . . . and now have no jobs waiting for them. 

Second, let’s look at a radiologist . . . they spent a lot of money for school and earn a high salary . . . but there are already AI-driven computers that are more accurate in reading and diagnosing diseases by “looking” at x-rays. That’s because machines can differentiate many more shades of gray and colors than the human eye. In short order, patients will prefer/demand computers as opposed to humans reading their scans. Poof! A high-paying job out the window. What does this unemployed radiologist all of a sudden do? They’re highly specialized in a field that no longer needs them. 

I heard a good discussion of all this and one statement, for me, characterized the difference. The internal combustion engine was a great innovation but it is a machine. It was a tool used by people. AIs are not tools for humans . . . they are replacements for humans. Not only that, they can replace humans from the most menial and repetitive tasks to very sophisticated and complex operations. 

Some will argue that AI make mistakes . . . yes, and so do humans. Besides, AIs are already more reliable than humans. Automated manufacturing already produces higher quality products than those made by traditional workers on an assembly line. 

Other advantages AIs have . . .

They have immediate access to all prior knowledge, mistakes, successes, and can “learn” from all that data a lot faster than humans. Whereas a human needs training, an AI just needs a data portal. If I own a company, I know a human worker will take some amount of time before they can become proficient at their job, before they learn all the pitfalls, before they encounter all the obstacles that need surmounting to gain experience. An AI has all that a few seconds after it’s plugged in. If I need to make a change in the process, it means weeks of training human workers. It means an upgrade and reboot of automated machines.

Whereas the knowledge a human learns is difficult to share (apprenticeships take time) and is subject to an incomplete transfer, AIs can instantly share knowledge even with AIs in other parts of the world. There are no pay-grade tasks nor hierarchy of knowledge. Pick any of your AIs and they will all be as reliable and knowledgeable. 

Some say we are ten to twenty years away from AIs exploding into the work environment and because humans have a difficult time thinking much further than a few years, it doesn’t seem like an immediate problem.  Politicians think in terms of re-election cycles, so either two or four years.

Do you remember ten years ago? Doesn’t it seem like it was only a few years ago? Yup. Nothing to worry about.

And now, the photo:

Project 313 073

Some of these logos are easily discernable . . . others won’t be. Some people won’t like these treatments . . . others will. 

The cartoon reminds me of something I used to face in photography . . . I used to have a yard full of flowers. No, wait . . . I used to have flowerbeds full of flowers. Anyone who used to follow me back in the day knows I snapped many photos of flowers (for example).

I don’t recall ever clipping (picking) a flower and taking it inside to better control the picture-capturing process. Mind you, I’ve photographed picked flowers but they were bought by me (or others) as opposed to picked by me. An important distinction. 

Wait . . . I stand corrected. One instance of me picking something to photograph (HERE) although technically that’s not a flower. In my defense, I would have plucked that seed ball anyway and disposed of the seeds. 

Speaking of AIs, I wonder how they would see themselves . . . would they even take selfies? Paint pictures of themselves? I presume so if their consciousness is comprised of something resembling the ego. This is what a Computer Self-Portrait might look like. I think. Maybe. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. 

Computer Self-Portrait

 

And . . . that’s it

Some of these posts will likely be longer as the mood hits me, but most will be thus; short, uninteresting, bland, and relentless.

You can read about Project 313 HERE.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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