The promise of automation is this: a future of ‘assistance’ that will relieve us from the burden of being human. The end of banal and repetitive tasks. Instant error fixes; in-built digital systems that self-repair. Artificial intelligence to tell us when, where, what, how, why, and then do it for us. Robotic arms to dig the trenches and clean the gutter, and then teach themselves to be more efficient. Bots to enact our every fetish (from feet to My Little Pony); talking cures for social isolation. Remote-control pharmacists and personality-tested direct-to-consumer psychoanalysts.
In their relentless search for ‘innovation’, the CEO’s of Silicon Valley might take us even further: an automation so extreme we no longer need to masticate or develop our own taste or individual personality. The automation of the self itself.
But the robots are coming for our jobs. They’re coming armed with redundancy packages and takeover scripts. They’re infiltrating all the sectors and usurping the human/machine hierarchy. If you dig down into the earth you’ll find sensors already there, testing the pH levels.
The macro-view of automation is a series of connections, a set of relationships between oil extraction, the emoji keyboard, drone warfare and calculator games.
And a robot’s future, unlike ours, is infinite; their end-of-life update-able.
But what if automators are also organisers? Or what if the algorithms unionise and enter the mainframe? What if they disrupt the system of transaction because, to the streamlined algorithm, the system of transaction is bloated and inefficient? Or what if the robots depart from their auto-tuned gendered voices that mimic maternal tones and choose to queer their logorrhoea? What if the AI bot says to their AI boss: I’d prefer not to?
If no one can stop the worker from thinking while using a machine, then no one can stop a machine from thinking while doing the work.