I, Robot

I ‌use artificial intelligence the way an amputee might use a prosthetic leg. Without it, I have nothing to stand on. I rely on smart devices for nearly every conceivable intellectual task. Take the phone from my cold dead hand and you will essentially possess the central processing unit of my otherwise enfeebled mind (and maybe some embarrassing selfies).

In short, without smart devices I’m dumb. I know implicitly that my over-reliance on them is playing with Promethean fire. If I don’t get burned outright, then it’s only a matter of time before the robots chain me to a rock so that I may have my liver plucked at by vultures for all eternity. The irony that my wine-marinated liver will prove a delicacy to scavengers is almost as galling as the foreknowledge that the robots will soon take my job.

AI scribes are already “writing” financial and sports stories, pairing numbers and stats with boilerplate and spraying the web with search-engine-optimized “content.” That word, the c-word, that’s where we went wrong—when we let the system commodify our work as fodder to fill the gaping maw of infinitely-expanding cyberspace. Feeding that beast takes a lot of work, which is why labor-saving gadgets are such an intrinsic part of my process. The AI on my phone, for example, not only captured my voice dictating these words but it transcribed them into the text that you’re now reading. The medium is the message and data rates may apply.

At every step along my dark path to pixels and print, a digital presence lurks, listening, watching, and learning. My every tic, from utterance to keystroke, is cataloged and rendered through the algorithm and will surely produce a digital facsimile of me in the very near future. This sucks because the field is competitive enough—the last thing I need is to compete with a better, stronger, faster version of me. Don’t we already have Millennials for that?

I first noticed the AI was onto to me when autocorrect began to catch up with the esoterica I shoehorn into my vocabulary (why use a five-cent word when a 50-cent word adds ten times the literary value?). Now, the apps I use both anticipate and suggest complete turns of phrase—like this one: Bow down to your robot overlords. Weird, huh?

In a retelling of John Henry vs. The Mighty Steam Drill, my colleagues at Cards Against Humanity (the party game for horrible people) were recently pitted against an AI in competition for their writing jobs. Who could create the more popular pack of humorous cards? “On the line,” wrote Nick Stack on The Verge, “are $5,000 bonuses for every employee if team human comes up victorious, or heartless termination in the event the AI takes the top spot.”

Guess who won? No, seriously guess—I can’t find the answer anywhere. Even if the writers at CAH won, the war is probably already lost. That’s what autocorrect insists every time I try to write otherwise.

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