Westworld, Terminator, I Robot & the like

Movies seem to reflect some of the current events of our society. It has reflected our fear and fascination with automation and artificial intelligence. The most simplistic term for artificial intelligence might be “robot.”

If you are old enough or like classic cinema you might remember Westworld from 1973, directed and written by Michael Crichton. The movie revolves around an adult theme park where the staff is comprised of androids whose job is to ensure park guests have a good time. Things go awry when the gunslinger (played by Yul Brynner) malfunctions and starts killing guests.

In Terminator from 1984 the past must be saved from a cybernetic android played by Arnold Schwarzenegger who has come from the year 2029. His mission is to kill a waitress that will be the mother of the man who will lead a revolution against the machines.

I, Robot from 2004 starring Will Smith is but another example of how constructed appliances become self-aware and as a result threaten humanity.

We are terrified, or want to be terrified by artificial intelligence taking over our very existence. Why then have we become a society of people who converse via text, avoid getting together face to face. And why in the world is it so damn difficult to get a live person on the phone? (Yes, it has taken me four paragraphs to get to the point but what a set-up.)

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I have noticed with increasing frequency that bills, statements, and receipts fail to include a contact phone number. If there is one listed it is likely to an automated answering service that follows prompts.

In the old days if there was a telephone announcement with prompts yes. But you could simply press pound (hashtag for you millennials out there) to get an operator. Sadly, that option has all but gone out of existence. I know this because I still try to press zero, silly me. However, these days there is no operator, much less an option to get one.

If you are lucky enough to get a phone number it is unlikely that you will talk to a living breathing person. I have made calls where I have spent several minutes listening to the prompts that “have changed” in hopes that I might get connected to an actual person—no such luck.

It has gotten to the point where solicitors, bill collectors, and telemarketers use a new technology wherein automated responses are prerecorded and disseminated depending on your responses. I often ask “is this a real person?” Usually it is not.  Then ask to be removed from the list but wonder if anybody actually gets removed from a calling list.

How long is it going to take until we stop talking to each other altogether? Are nonverbal cues going to become a lost language? I say rebel, buck the system. I challenge you to look a passerby in the eye and say hello. Go out with your friend or family member and interact face to face. Get outside and get some sunshine and fight the indoor doldrums. Endeavor to learn what facial expressions and body gestures say to you in real life.

Because the machines that take over may not be machines at all. They may be humans that have become so desensitized and detached from their surroundings that they have lost the ability to interact in a meaningful way.


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