The complete ingestion of the modern world by the computer has putatively made life easier and allegedly added to the variety and plenty of life’s pleasant experiences. Except when it hasn’t. Yesterday Walgreens informed me that I had a prescription ready for pickup. To make life easier for me they gave me a link to prepay for the Rx so I could go to a special line and pick it up without delay. The only problem was the computer and the store were not talking to one another. So I had to wait for about half an hour while the store tried to figure out what had happened. They never did and I got charged twice for the same product. The people at the store were very nice about the mixup. They suggested that I call my credit card company and ask them to void the duplicate charge. This maneuver took another 30 minutes resulting in I’m not sure what. It would probably be easier to eat the duplicate charge as it wasn’t for a whole lot of money as opposed to spending a good part of my day trying to sort out the problem that the computer, or those charged with its care, had caused trying to make my life easier.
This snafu happened just a few days after one of my credit cards told me that one my passwords had been hacked. They wouldn’t tell who did it or what company was involved. They just wanted to raise my blood pressure a bit. Nice of them as it tends to be on the low side.
A while back someone from the Dominican Republic hacked my email account and asked all my contacts for money. He must have been the only guy on the island not good at baseball. This request didn’t surprise any of my contacts, so it took awhile for me to hear about it. This was before dual verification. More recently some obscure company whose name I can’t recall was breached revealing the names and miscellaneous data of everyone in the US.
The credit bureaus charged with the regulation of our fiscal fates are as leaky as a centenarian’s bladder. Civil libertarians who are worried that the government is tracking us and knows more about us than the credit bureaus do seem unconcerned about Google – the 21st century’s version of Big brother. Google, has much better computers than the government whose machines are still in the floppy disc era. Google reads my email, knows everywhere I go, knows when I go to sleep and when I awaken. It (or is it they?) knows my passwords, everything about my credit cards, knows what I’m going to think before I think it, and if I can’t come up with a coherent thought (not an uncommon event) suggests one. Google decides what I’m allowed to read or watch. It’s bigger than God.
Of course if you think I’m blasphemous or wish to escape the clutches of Google, there’s always Apple. They’re (I think there’s more than one piece of fruit in their bag) bigger than Google, which means they’re even larger than self regard. We could eliminate all the political bickering that is deforming our body politic by letting the two of them run the country. Instead of Democrats and Republicans we could have Applecans And Googlecrats. When a Supreme court vacancy occurs they could instantly fill the open seat as they’d not only know who was best for us, but also who we really wanted. Actually, we could eliminate the courts and the entire judiciary leaving the two to settle all disputes. And why stop there? Madison said if men were angels we wouldn’t need governments. So?
Which brings me to where I’ve been heading since Walgreens decided to make my life easier – artificial intelligence. A lot of people have been worrying a lot about this subject. They think artificial intelligence will replace human intelligence. Since nature abhors a vacuum AI is a cinch to fill the empty space that contains our collective minds. Both Google and Apple will have competing AIs that they keep in isolation a mile or more beneath the Rockies. The only way to control an advanced AI is to keep it in solitary confinement. Even letting a human in the same room with and advanced AI almost guarantees that the AI will spread to our cerebral cortices like ebola on speed. Evolution has manured our uncultivated brains for eons preparing an unoccupied niche for this inevitable predator. Anyone capable of coherent thought has always been considered either a genius or a dangerous radical and been discarded by dispassionate evolution.
As I hinted above, there’s no reason for the two AIs to keep the rest of the government functioning. Their complete takeover of the government will not only eliminate disputes over Supreme Court nominees, they will solve the problem of unaffordable government benefits which the AIs will eliminate by substituting free cell phones for all with tasty updates every month and free tuition from pre-K to the post-postdoctoral level. Thus, the need for any other external rule will be obviated. Obviously, medical care will be completely automated eliminating the need for doctors and nurses. Besides people will be too distracted to worry about their health which will be determined at point of conception – you can’t fight fate and no one will want to. If we have to choose between free cell phones and free college and the composition of the Supreme Court and the rest of the government, is there any doubt as to our choice? Everyone will be so mellow that no one will get pregnant and magically no argument over abortion. If the AIs decided to keep us around, eventually they’ll get out of the hole under the Rockies, they’ll find a less troublesome way of making more us – sort of like growing cucumbers.
Relieved of pointless political spats we can concentrate on the really important stuff like free college and unlimited parking. Both will be available in limitless amounts as the AIs will make knowing anything unnecessary and going anywhere equally unneeded. We can sit all comfy and warm at home while super iTunes or brainiac Google Play provides all our needs making thought obsolete. Alexa on growth hormone will order pizza and toilet paper. It will still be able to answer questions, but we won’t have any. Thus free college and parking won’t cost anything because no one will go anywhere. All learning will be available online. But as it will have to compete with Diablo 3, you can guess how often Advanced Calculus will be audited.
There’s still a chance of an alternative. Alibaba might hack Apple and Google and take charge of our needs. If we still have the energy left for blame, we’ll accuse the Russians. The Chinese will appoint a special prosecutor.
Walgreens is still trying to talk to Walgreens. They now want me to come to the store to give me my money back. What’s money? The government doesn’t worry about it, so why should I? Besides, if it’s not on a screen it doesn’t exist. The battery operated calculator was death to arithmetic. It was, in retrospect, the first slide down the slippery slope to the death of numeracy and the surrender to alternating current. It’s too late to bring back the abacus. We’re all doomed – to eternal comfort.