We talked to an expert regarding the direction in which our civilizations are heading as robots slowly replace nearly all of the human interactions within lower-income groups. What are we sacrificing? What are we gaining? If we ever stray too far, can we return to our previous ways?
It is hard to imagine a world in which artificial intelligence was not an integral member of society. We rely on the services provided by these intelligent, teachable machines to drive our daily processes and create much-needed convenience within our lives. Artificial intelligence plays a fundamental role in evolving so many different functions within our civilization. It has made its way into everything, from traffic control and healthcare to art creation and cooking. When the AI revolution began, it seemed like it was merely there for convenience – self-driving cars, machines that helped doctors make diagnoses, or assisting with analytics.
Today’s world is entirely different, and the very fabric of the human race has likely wholly changed forever. Quite honestly, it does not seem like the existence of artificial intelligence is a problem for most; however, the application of ai and its effect among socioeconomic groups is the real cause for concern. Once again, we have created a stark imbalance among the rich and the less fortunate. Those who were once laborers and professionals with plenty of social interaction – teachers, doctors, servers, etc., are now data analysts, engineers, or scientists. After their professions moved toward a machine-model, they were trained on how to monitor the machines.
The rich and extremely wealthy appear still have access to plenty of interaction. Because machines require little to no labor costs, lower-income neighborhoods interact almost solely with devices or robots on a daily basis. Head to any shop, office, or some other social or commercial space in wealthy areas, and you will be greeted by a smiling, friendly bag of bones – they maintain their human interactions. What once seemed like the perfect solution to accessible healthcare for all quickly turned into machines for all, humans for those who can afford the premium. It is easy to arrive at this point, shaking our heads, asking, “How did this happen”? Here’s how…
First, they replaced many of our occupations with robots. It started with manual laborers and those in manufacturing. Honestly, we all saw this coming. The machines were faster, exhibit fewer errors, and just don’t cost as much. However, it was a bit more surprising as artificial intelligence began to takeover classrooms, doctor’s offices, hospitals, virtually every aspect of our daily interactions. Did you ever think you would be attending parent/teacher conferences with a robot? We weren’t too worried. However, those whose jobs were displaced were trained and educated on working with the machines in roles such as data analysis, software engineering, and societal planning (creating and managing effective ways for robots to become part of our communities).
Then our governments, elected officials, and top scientists told us that artificial intelligence would provide answers to all of the world’s problems. Robots would solve world hunger and provide healthcare access to all, regardless of income and socioeconomic status. And it did, but the machines never went away. It began to feel like these machines were a way for those with more resources and more money to feel less guilty about their stature and wealth. They could “deal” with the poor without getting too close and then brag to each other about how much they have helped progress society and the human race. There are no more hungry people and no more sick people who can’t receive care. Jury duty is a concept lost to the past as robots are judge, jury, and prosecutor for anyone living in a town with a less-than-astronomical paycheck. At times, it can feel like they are trying to strip us of our humanity – are we their pets being kept in a giant cage?
We are now limited to the amount of human interaction we receive due to fully automated processes from everything to go to the grocery store, getting a haircut, or even shopping for a pair of shoes. Who could have imagined a world in which human interaction was a sought-after commodity? They created machines to service the masses, and no, they have taught the masses how to service the machines. If it feels like an endless, monotonous loop, that’s because it is.
Nonetheless, here we are now living with varying degrees of social interaction, mostly dependent on the amount of money you make and who you are to society. Next week brings forth a groundbreaking decision to be made by the supreme court – should those charged with committing a crime to be banned from social interactions with other humans? Those in favor argue that protects innocent people from potential danger. What they fail to mention in the press is that this law applies to everyone, both violent and non-violent offenders. No one knows how this will turn out because it is the first case in which half of the deciding judges are robots.
We sat down with Jennifer Jones, a former lawyer and policymaker, to discuss the upcoming case, as well as the many consequences created by the full integration of artificial intelligence on society. In our interview, we discuss how her life has changed, her prediction for the case and what the outcome means, and of course, how her daily life has changed as a result of the robot revolution. Jennifer is a 36-year-old former civil rights, consumer, environmental, and personal injury lawyer. About ten years ago, when they announced that only high-ranking judges would maintain their careers as lawmakers, Jones immediately began training as a data analyst for the legal and judiciary team of robots. She was kind enough to sit down with us last week to speak to what the human experience has come to mean and what it will look like if we keep progressing in the same direction.
Jennifer, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us this afternoon. I know that we are approaching some very unprecedented situations, and your input and professional opinion is very helpful in understanding how this can affect our communities and our futures.
My pleasure, thank you for having me. However, I am not sure how professional my opinion is anymore. It is important to point out that I haven’t been a lawyer for over six years.
Do you mind if we start there? I think our readers would really like to hear more about your personal experience and how losing your former career to a machine has impacted your life.
I don’t even know where to begin. Honestly, the past several years have felt like a blur of confusion and disbelief, but we as humans are adaptable, so we keep moving forward. At first, I foolishly thought that my profession was exempt from being replaced by artificial intelligence. Judges did too. All of us within the legal and judicial community figured that only clerks and administrative jobs, maybe paralegals, would be replaced by robots but never lawyers and judges. Part of our professions was the human element of understanding, emotional connection, and mercy. Yes, it is essential to bring those who commit crimes to justice, but no two crimes are committed in the same way or by the same criminal.
Looking back, it is easy to write us all off as being foolish or arrogant, but we really did not see this coming. Then it came, only high-ranking judges – think the supreme court, state courts, and appeals judges – would maintain their posts. Which is kind of interesting because what happens when they no longer can practice law? There are no lower-ranking lawyers to replace them. They either haven’t gotten that far, or the plan is to integrate into an entirely artificially intelligent judiciary system.
So, what happened when they announced that a machine would replace your profession?
When I found out, I laughed! “There’s no way they can replace us,” I thought; we are an integral part of maintaining law and order within society. I was obviously very wrong. I remember I was walking to work and the managing partner at my firm called my cell. When I picked up, he urged me to get to work quickly as we would be holding an emergency meeting. I thought we were getting a high-profile case (she pauses, getting a bit misty-eyed).
Do you need a minute?
No, no, I am fine (she laughs). It has just been a while since I revisited this day in my head. So, when I get to work, you could feel the tension immediately. This is when I started to get nervous and was trying to fight the urge to panic. The firm’s partners sat down the entire teams and announced that we would be slowly phased out. You can imagine we were shocked and honestly had no idea what the hell he was talking about.
As we stared at him in disbelief, he explained that we were to continue working on our current cases but that we would no longer practice law once those cases were complete. There had been an executive order to replace all lawyers, local judges, and legal teams to dismantle and seize to practice after their current cases and trials closed.
What was the first thought that ran through your head?
How in the world am I going to pay back my law school loans.
Are you still paying them off?
No, the government absolved the loans as a part of the redirection initiative.
Can you speak more to that and the problems that you have noticed within the initiative?
Basically, it was a way to stop displaced workers and professionals from becoming homeless, jobless, and disenfranchised. After our cases wrapped up, they immediately began training us for data-related jobs or maintenance operations for the machines and AI robots. It was crazy, absolutely ridiculous. Here I was, a Harvard Law graduate being taught how to read code and make inferences based on massive data sets. It was terrible! I excelled at law; it was my passion – how my brain worked! They took me out of the courtroom and put me at a desk to stare at a computer all day.
The real problem is racial inequality and how the redirection initiative affects communities of color or lower socioeconomic status.
If you are white and somewhat educated, you are almost guaranteed an analyst or engineer position – something within the scope of data science. But those who are black, Latino, or were manual laborers with smaller paychecks became maintenance and janitorial support. They claim that job redirection has nothing to do with race or socioeconomic status because the machines determine who is the best fit based on several factors – so it is completely unbiased.
They fail to mention that the machines are just as biased as the person who created them – inputted their data! And the unfortunate truth is that many of the original operating systems were developed in labs full of intelligent, somewhat affluent white men. They had no understanding of the experience for anyone other than themselves. This is why the claim that machines do not recognize gender, color, or any other factors that could create inequality. However, whether on purpose or by a sheer desire not to see it, they made machines that learn from the data they were fed, which means that the robots and artificial intelligence rely solely on that core knowledge to base every other inference or opinion.
Do these biases affect other functions within society as a result of artificial intelligence?
Absolutely! There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that machines and artificial intelligence create the same problematic conditions for those who are poor or are part of a minority group. It’s not like they are hiding it! The wealthy go to fine dining restaurants with those of us who are still servers, and they shop at grocery stores where there are still human cashiers. They even get their hair and nails done by real people! The conversation must be so stimulating. I can assure you that this is not the case with a robot giving you a trim
I was on my way to becoming the most successful person in my family. My parents did not go to college, and they worked their entire lives just to put food on the table. I wanted something different. I wanted to take care of them and give us all a better experience. And I worked hard for the opportunity just to be ripped right out of my hands. It is easy to blame the machines, but there were humans behind this shift. Humans behind the knowledge that the machines acquired. Our own race, the human race, created those [robots] who are responsible for our demise.
In what ways has your daily life changed the most?
I mean, I still see people on the street and say hello. I still interact with my friends and family, but it is the other stuff. It’s going to the doctor and sitting on an exam bed while talking about my health with a robot. It is taking my dog to the groomers and having absolutely no idea if the person cutting their hair is going to take care of them because it’s not a person at all. I miss being able to read between the lines of my interactions to decide whether or not the person I was talking to was trustworthy, or kind, or should possibly be avoided. No one, other than the wealthy, can choose for themselves anymore, which is dangerous. I don’t get to choose who does my hair or which store I go to; they are all the same now. All run by robots.
What are your thoughts surrounding the impending case?
You mean, do I think that convicted criminals should be removed from human interaction?
Let me ask you this, has solitary confinement ever created a beneficial outcome for the accused, imprisoned, or convicted? No. It makes them, for lack of a better description, go crazy. We aren’t meant to be solitary. We are social beings.
We aren’t even just talking about violent offenders here; this regards anyone who has gone to jail. It’s absurd and hard to believe that we are entertaining the issue. How can we tell people whether or not they are allowed to interact with other humans or solely robots? It is just another way to further discriminate against those with lower socioeconomic statuses.
What does this mean for our future?
I don’t know if I am qualified to answer that question, but I do believe that this will further divide the incredibly wealthy from those who are underrepresented and disenfranchised. It is funny. Artificial intelligence was created to help us; however, it seems to me that it is only creating more discourse and oppression among society?