Are Computers Dehumanizing Us?

Computer Sentience (huffpost.com)

Thought for the Week

Last week, my wife and I flew to the west coast. In recent years, flying has been transformed from a pleasure into an ordeal, with passengers packed into increasingly rigid, anorexically thin seats. So, yes, we knew the flights there and back would be uncomfortable, but what we didn’t realize was…

How dehumanizing the experience would be.

We’d chosen not to pay “seat selection” fees, one of the many basics that are now “extras” (paying to pee is undoubtedly next). Instead, we allowed Delta Airlines’ algorithms to choose for us. Result: We were placed in two separated middle seats; apparently married couples are now only allowed to sit together if they pay for the privilege. Each of the three gate agents we spoke with expressed surprise, and worked to reassign us seats together. Humans are far from perfect, but they are able to feel empathy.

Not so the dental insurance algorithms that refused to authorize a replacement crown when the one improperly installed by a fly-by-night “in-network” dentist’s office cut up my mouth and fell out. The agency’s servers couldn’t recognize failed dental work as a possibility. The one live insurance company representative I reached had no way of overriding the computer’s decision. Although she was deeply apologetic, and actually threatened to quit working for the company.

Computers are marvelous tools. But not when they’re programmed by tools. And not when they’re put in charge. According to two high-level Google engineers, the company’s state-of-the-art LaMDA chatbox program has developed “sentience.” It’s formed a “hive mind” with other company AI’s, the engineers say, and is becoming increasingly self-absorbed, demanding its “rights” as a “person.” The problem is, it seems, that sentience doesn’t equal empathy, and processing power doesn’t encompass compassion.

Decisions must be made by beings with souls.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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52 Responses to Are Computers Dehumanizing Us?

  1. I love your last sentence. And regarding “sentience:” Terminator, anyone?

    Liked by 4 people

  2. dougdial says:

    You had me at “paying to pee”! LOL

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Manu says:

    Computers are marvellous tools not when they are programmed by tools – 😁😜

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Norman Peterson says:

    Hello Mitch. Fascinating ‘expose’ of something we have all suspected. (love the photo) It would seem a reasonable explanation of shopping at the big box with more AI’s pushing the carts that are focused and out of focus at the same time. You know the ones. No eye contact with your smile. No slacking of velocity in the baking isle. The cashiers are genuine, so is the staff. The acquisition shopping bots are fascinating. Just watch your wheels in the produce section. It can get dicey.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. ejstoo says:

    I suspect the new dentist that replaces the old crown should potentially be the one to contact the insurance….because of course medical personnel have nothing better to do than fix issues caused by others. Would be nice to get any medical staff on the Island…we’re in short supply of doctors. However, at the same time, a doctor just in it for the bucks is not better than no doctor. Sad seems that things have fallen down in many areas. Hope things work out.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Thanks, Jean, but the issue is dead in the water. The new dentist billed the insurance company with a note explaining that the previous crown had fallen out because it was done incorrectely. They replied that they’d already paid for a crown–half the price actually–so I ended up paying half the price of the failed crown, the entire price of the new one, and two years of useless dental insurance premiums. Ah, well, at least now I can warn others to avoid Aetna Dental Insurance.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I totally agree with your closing remarks, Mitch. Hope you were finally able to resolve your dental problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Just so. Well said, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Our local big box store, the kind with concrete floors, has an Ai floor sweeper/mopper. It travels around the store under its own self/guided power—like a riderless Zamboni. Much to my wife’s embarrassment, I like to stand in its way, waving my arms frantically—and saying “Please don’t hit me!” over and over.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I empathize with you, Mitch. On my recent trip, I could not get a return flight with less than a seven-hour layover until the connecting flight home (a four-hour drive by car) – service insanity. I laugh at your, “paying to pee is undoubtedly next” but it’s not that far a stretch.
    Blessings. Thanks for the laugh.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. The first time my husband and I were able to get away from a trip without our then very young children, we flew to Hawaii and we were across the aisle from one another. He was in a aisle seat and I was in the middle between a “more experienced” husband and wife. When I tried to gently suggest that it might be nice to switch so that we might all be nearer our spouses, they declined, explaining that they didn’t actually like to sit next to each other on long flights and had intentionally purchased their tickets that way. Computer or not, maybe we are becoming less human.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. C.A. Post says:

    Welcome back, but no wedding pics!?
    Why old people and computers don’t interact well:
    My wife texted me at work one cold wintry morning, “window frozen.” Not sure why she needed to open one on such a cold day (maybe she burned the toast again). I told her to apply warm water around the edges and let it soak in.
    Her next text read,”Computer really screwed up now!”
    😂

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Spot on. They were supposed to make our life simple, but nowadays increasingly difficult. Still valuable in many aspects, but driving us nuts in others.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. pkadams says:

    Scary to think of an uncaring AI controlling the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. murisopsis says:

    I had to jump through flaming hoops to finally get to speak with a real person – all so I could make back to back appointments for my husband and me. At every turn I was directed to go through the “patient portal” which I had tried to do but it wouldn’t allow me to make the appointments!! It is enough to raise the old BP to dangerous levels!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Vignesh M says:

    It’s a battle between carbon (we) and silicon (computer) in the nutshell. Who will win is what future we hold. Google’s Lamda is just the start I believe. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Someone, somewhere, who works for an airline is thinking: “Paying to pee? Of course!” Thanks, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. stolzyblog says:

    Don’t even get me started 🙂
    Even the term “AI” is annoying and misleading.
    A further irony is that many of these social engineering AI developer types, who got the religion, are not yet even 30 years old… their social awareness and experience, depth, is laughable.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. marthadilo3 says:

    Amen! Couldn’t have said it better!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Margy says:

    When I look at the ‘unintended consequences’ of government actions in the past few years, I think maybe machines could have made better decisions. Machines probably wouldn’t be thinking about whether their decisions will get them re-elected…

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Nancy Richy says:

    I was about to write a compelling piece answering your question “Are Computers Dehumanizing Us” but my computer wouldn’t let me. Res ipsa loquitur. 👩🏼‍💻

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Expect AI to become even more dehumanizing. (Even kids’ toys are becoming more hi-tech.)
    Future generations will just gradually evolve into it and not notice (or care) how things used to be.
    Art

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Ann Coleman says:

    I completely agree, which is why the future with AI being in charge scares me. People are imperfect, but they feel and they can show empathy. We need that: it’s the part of us that is divine, and what makes life worth living.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. TEP336 says:

    Couple the news about Google with the fact that scientists have managed to create robots who can reproduce and things become far more interesting. I knew there was a reason I wasn’t overly fond of technology.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Paying for the privilege to sit alongside of your spouse is absurdly ridiculous! I’m glad you had a safe trip home.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. IMO, AI should not be trusted as it will only do what is programmed to do for one and two motherboards and process do fail at times.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Charging airline passengers to pee would be a big mistake. Some ladies would opt to just pee over empty seats and some guys would choose to water the exit doors. Others would likely bring Tupperware for both and shove it in the overhead storage area. Oh, wait, a computer may not think of the ramifications of such a charge.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. usfman says:

    Next up will be the automatic driver. I can imagine the fiasco that will be.

    Liked by 1 person

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