Monday, November 27, 2023

The Third Way.

You can't spit today--or yesterday, or the day before yesterday, or tomorrow--without hearing somebody, somewhere--probably a futurist, whatever that is--pomposticating about the glorious era of AI humanity is on the cusp of entering. 

Human potential will be unleashed.

Diseases will be cured.

Air will be cleared, poems will be written, operas will be sung.

An Age of Peace, Prosperity and Harmony with settle upon our not-so-green-earth and the sins of the fathers will be ameliorated by a generation that will make things right and will, in so doing, create the best of all possible worlds.

I'll say it right here.

I don't much cotton to futurists who have no vision of the past. Most everything that's happening today with AI, or Quantum, or cold-fusion, or driverless-Cuisinarts, or the internet of schwings, has happened before in similar ways with similarly (for the time-frame) advanced technologies.

Technology--I'll make this really simple--regardless of its micro job description, say, attaching a bumper onto a car frame, or ploughing 50 acres-a-day where a human with a yoke of oxen could plough one, is 99.99999-per cent of the time a tool to drive cost out of the system.

What's more, since technology costs money, it's usually concentrations of capital that benefit first from technology. They own the machines, they get rid of the people who used to do the work. They get more money.

That's how the rich get richer and the poor die younger. 

That's how it's always been and always will be.

Now, there's another virtually indisputable facet of technology and industrialization. 

Quality almost immediately decays.

Early printed books were not as artful as those made by scribes on vellum. Early machine-made furniture was not as beautiful and finely-made as hand-made furniture. 

Around 1800, when England switch from its primary cottage industry, weaving and clothing-making to loom-made and factory-made textiles, the quality was decried. Machines couldn't do what human hands could.

See if you can find one not un-true statement in this one minute time-suck. Or one statement that's now, not 'what will happen.'

Just yesterday, I saw an ad for AI-derived customer-service technology made by an ex-client of mine. The bullshit about the splendors of this technology improving "the customer experience" and service etc. etc. was as soul crushing as a speech by donald trump or joseph goebbels. Every word was so absolutely divergent from lived reality as to be more-than-comical.

Yet today, I read of a efflorescence, a renaissance of sorts to be propagated by AI.

The way tech works is always the same.

We're told there will be a "mother and child reunion." A mating, for the benefit of all of humans and machines. Coal-mining will be safer. Cars will be affordable. The $5 wage will raise all ships. John Henry can knock off early and eat boneless buffalo- style wings while a steam shovel does his work while he benefits.

Yet, there's hardly ever an enhancement of product quality of the life of the masses due to machinery and technology. The rapid adoption of machinery has almost always caused massive disruption and misery. Adoption must happen fast--because if you own a company and your competitors do and you don't, you're out of business.

Almost 40 years ago, New York Times op-ed writer Flora Lewis wrote a column called "The Third Way." An hour ago, I tried to post a link to it here, but in our hyper-modern world, a storm--made more severe by the effects of our hyper-modern world--has knocked out the power. Our $32,000 generator isn't working. Ostensibly because the bot that supposed to tell the technician to service the $32,000 generator is vacationing in Aruba or is gambling at Foxwoods.

Surely, however, in lieu of the service I pay for, I'll get sixteen texts asking me how to fill out a survey to tell a bot how my customer experience was.

That's merely an emblem of what happens when technology drives costs out of a system. It drives people and humanity out of the system as well. 

Agencies today are big box retailers. Ask a client--any client--if they're happy with the undifferentiated product, the constantly changing staffing of their account, the lack of accountability--I'd imagine agency invoices are nearly as convoluted as your cable bill, and more. 

But it's all ok.

Cost has been driven out of the system. And twelve white males at the top of the holding company are aok. 

Here's the bit, at long last, from Flora Lewis that set this off. Lewis' third way thesis requires thinking, planning, kindness and accepting 188-percent margins rather than 189-percent margins. So, it will never happen.

Any futurist reading this--anytime, anywhere, any who, let's debate this.

Mano a mano.

Or mano a machino.

"Real quality requires craftsmanship, hand-finishing. Historically, it was reserved for the rich. The second industrial revolution can be used to provide it for everybody, just as the first made possible mass production and distribution. That was achieved by an economic model based on great quantities of cheap goods. Henry Ford's assembly line made the automobile everyman's transport. The robot can now replace low-skilled workers. The next step is the equivalent of a Rolls-Royce for everyman..."

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