We Wanted Robots and AI All Along

As much as people may express distrust or discomfort with artificial intelligence and robots today, the reality is that we’ve wanted robots (powered by AI) as significant parts of our lives all along.

Consider the standards we hold people to for attractiveness.

We demand nearly impossible standards of beauty that takes a full-time fitness career to achieve. Only those wealthy enough to afford personal trainers & chefs, gyms, and hours a day come close to achieving those standards. Who looks ideal all the time, without effort? Robots do.

Consider the standards we hold people to for artistic performance.

We demand musicians never miss a note in their public performances and lambaste them if they do. We equally demand that they be “authentic” and not lip-sync or auto-tune. Who sings perfectly every time, in the moment? Robots do.

Consider the standards we hold people to for athletic achievement.

We demand athletes meet ever-increasing standards of skill and capability, so much so that they ruin their bodies and destroy their futures just to win sporting contests. Who delivers perfect athletic performance and has no penalty or serious consequence for injury? Robots do.

Consider the standards we hold people to for workplace performance.

We demand perfection and dock workers for imperfection and inefficiency. “Fail fast” may be the mantra of Silicon Valley, but “failure is not an option” is the guiding maxim for much of the world’s workplaces. Who works flawlessly all day, every day? Robots do.

Consider the standards we hold people to for employment.

We demand cheaper goods and services every day. We outsource our manufacturing to countries with the lowest wages and avoid paying living wages as much as we can. Who works for nearly free, asking for no benefits or compensation? Robots do.

Consider the standards we hold people to for everyday convenience.

We demand life operate on a push-button basis with instant gratification. Find a car, a ride, a grocery cart, a date – all with the push of a button. When something doesn’t work perfectly, instantly, we fly into a rage. We’ve even developed a term to describe this: first-world problems. Who delivers everything, exactly as ordered, on time? Robots do.

When we examine the pressure we place ourselves and others under, it becomes clear that we really want robots in our lives, and lots of them. We’ve grown increasingly intolerant of failure of any kind. We demand that our fellow humans meet impossible standards of achievement in nearly every aspect of our lives and culture.

What does this mean? We should not be surprised in any way as we ask robots and AI to take over more and more of our lives. While some may express discomfort with the transition, the reality is, based on how we treat our fellow human beings, we’ve wanted robots all along.

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