And The Winner Is…

Watson.

The time is fast approaching when mankind will have to make a crucial decision. One which will set our course way into the future.

We keep inventing ever more capable machines. Machines of all types to do all manner of things. In many ways these machines have already had a major impact on all the lives of the people of this planet. In our factories and in all the tasks we perform every day, machines have become an indispensable tool. In fact, without them we would be very hard pressed to accomplish all the work they do and thus meet the needs of all of the people who populate our world. The loaf of bread and the gallon of milk in the supermarket would not be there were it not for the machines. Not in the quantity to sustain us all. I know I have read that without them at least half of the population of the world would perish. Some studies place that number quite a bit higher.

And then there is the dark side. What, you didn’t think there wasn’t a catch?

We presently have the major supercomputers of the world doing various things. One of those is weapons research. In fact, a major use of them is dedicated to that very pupose. And we have supercomputers sifting our communications 24/7 looking for who knows what? That includes our Internet, cell and any other electronic communications you can think of. They are also deployed by the boatload on Wall Street by the biggest and baddest doing a major portion of trading in a completely autonomous way. Unaided except by the bits and bytes they are programmed to perform. And do it faster and better than their human counterparts. Which makes a ton of money for the owners of them.

And what of all the information that is generated by these machines? Collectively, it is a description of everything we know and do. With almost nothing left out. What happens when that information is able to be gathered and put to some purpose?

This is where the crucial part comes in.

As is already occurring, and is currently managed by humans, who will get to make the call about how these machines perform their tasks? Who will finally decide that they have effectively made the majority of humans dispensable? How will the reality of that circumstance be addressed?

The necessity of making this decision is not far off.

I remember way back in 1985 there was a prototype factory in Kentucky (as unlikely as it may seem) just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati making automotive parts that ran three shifts. The third shift was totally unmanned except for a couple of computer operators in a control room. The whole dam factory, everything, was automated. Not a human in sight on the factory floor. Some of you may recall I worked in factory automation and I in fact worked at that factory doing some of the setup on the electronics / computer side of things. It was awfully advanced for the time. And it did work. Very well as I recall. I was in mid-career just hitting my stride as it were. It was a blast if you happen to have been a geek. But very few outside of persons like myself had any idea of this. Certainly it was known but it wasn’t a big deal.

Except it was. All that was learned back then has mushroomed and has had a major impact on the human population. Workers to be precise. Productivity has gained at least one order of magnitude since then. That’s huge. Did you know that for all the noise of the immense labor pool in China, 20 million Chinese workers have lost their jobs to automation in the last decade?

And what of these displaced workers? Worldwide? Their lives have become less productive.

We have this dammed if we do dammed if we don’t situation. And right now there is no telling how this is going to be worked out. Looking at the screwed up direction the social construct is taking what are the chances that the idiots will understand any of this and make a sensible choice? Is there a sensible choice to be had? We will get to a point where the numbers of people far exceed any requirement for them to perform traditional work as we know it. There is literally nothing on the drawing board anywhere which is taking into account this transformation.

This has all been written of and it has been postulated that combined political and technological evolution has to arrive at some form of socialism no matter what. Capitalism and democracy are unordered, in fact chaotic systems that cannot accommodate the changes that absolutely will arise and which are already being felt. The existence of vast numbers of people without something productive to do with their lives aren’t readily solvable problems under our present system. This reality is sure to make everyone crazy. We will either make the necessary transformation in the human social order or we’ll do the unspeakable.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “And The Winner Is…

  1. cmaukonen

    When I was about 14 I heard my first Beatles song. I was sitting on the sofa in the living room leaving through a magazine when the local station played it. My father came in and heard it and asked what group it was. I did not like the song. “I want to hold your hand” I thought it rather childish and simplistic and worthy only of a Kiddy Record”. I said “Some group from England called the Beatles. They will never make it.”

    My first experiences with computers happened at a community college up in Cleveland. It was a DEC PDP8I with 8k of memory. No other peripherals except an ASR33 Teletype wit a paper tape reader and punch. It ran FOCAL which resided in memory.

    There was also an IBM 360 Model 22 for the Computer Programming Dept.

    Later down in Fl. I used and IBM 1130 both as an RJE terminal to the BIG computer at UF in Gainsville, an IBM 360 Model 65 with 3 meg of memory but cannot remember how much disk space or how many tape drives. I also used the 1130 stand alone.

    A few years later I worked at the Orlando Navy Base on an aircraft simulator that was driven by a Xerox Sigma 7.

    I finally became the lead systems programmer on two IBM Mainframes at the Univ. here.

    At no time did I imagine that automation and robotics would displace so many people. “At least 50 years or more away. Maybe 100.” I would say. “The state of the art isn’t even close.” I knew it would happen but no where nearly as fast as it has.

    Damn good thing I am not a payed pundit. I would have lost my job and been forever banned from the media.

    1. That’s a neat history C. I have some similar experiences on some of the same stuff. My particular direction had me forking to DEC VAX instead of IBM though. The DEC VAX stuff was more for scientific and industrial applications where the IBM stuff had a lock on the business / finance side.

      But I did like the Beatles right from the get go. Played the hell out those early Beatles albums.

      1. cmaukonen

        DEC VAX with VAX VMS which was RSX11M on steroids. But even on a large one it would bog with more than just a few people logged on.

        Unix though would fly on it.

        DEC OS – RSX11M, RT11, RSTS/E, P/OS….

        1. I used RSX-11, RT-11 and VMS. Cut my computing teeth on those things starting late 70’s. I remember the PDP-8 you referred to with all the bit switches and tape loader. Then the PDP-11 and PDP-11/70 and lastly I believe an 11/95. The bad old days for sure.

          I did a contract upgrade for some factory equipment back in the mid to late 90’s. I had been given, that is given for the effort of hauling them away the old stuff. Two of the late model PDP-11 with screens and keyboards. They came with two complete machine controllers in huge cabinets all of which were still in wide use all over the U.S. I later sold the whole shooting match for a tidy five figure sum. That stuff just never died. Unbelieveable.

          Fast forward to today and look at what we have. I can say for sure I could never go back. That was the stone age.

    1. The level of automation in a modern automotive factory is nothing short of a dam miracle. My guess is you can find videos on the net somewhere.

      You know what else is this way. Lego toys. All those pieces lend themselves to a high degree of automation.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s