Are robots competing for your job?
Probably, but don’t count yourself out.
The New Yorker magazine has a great essay by Jill Lepore about whether Are Robots Competing for Your Job? (Feb. 25, 2019) The essay talks about the various predictions, including the prediction that R.I. (Remote Intelligence or global workers) will take your job too. The fear of robots is the other side of the coin of the fear of immigrants which raises questions about why we are panicking over jobs when unemployment is so low.
Misery likes a scapegoat: heads, blame machines; tails, foreigners. But is the present alarm warranted? Panic is not evidence of danger; it’s evidence of panic. Stoking fear of invading robots and of invading immigrants has been going on for a long time, and the predictions of disaster have, generally, been bananas. Oh, but this time it’s different, the robotomizers insist.
Lepore points out how many job categories have been lost only to be replaced by others which is why economists are apparently dismissive of the anxiety.
Some questions we should be asking include:
- Who benefits from all these warnings about job loss?
- How do these warnings function rhetorically? What else might they be saying? How are they interpretations of the past by futurists?
- How is the panic about job losses tied to worries about immigration?
Operation Jane Walk appropriates the hallmarks of an action roleplaying game – Tom Clancy’s The Division (2016), set in a barren New York City after a smallpox pandemic – for an intricately rendered tour that digs into the city’s history through virtual visits to some notable landmarks. Bouncing from Stuyvesant Town to the United Nations Headquarters and down the sewers, a dry-witted tour guide makes plain how NYC was shaped by the Second World War, an evolving economy and the ideological jousting between urban theorists such as Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. Between stops, the guide segues into musical interludes and poetic musings, but doesn’t let us forget the need to brandish a weapon for self-defence. The result is a highly imaginative film that interrogates the increasingly thin lines between real and digital worlds – but it’s also just a damn good time.
Aeon has a great tour of New York using Tom Clancy’s The Division, Skip the bus: this post-apocalyptic jaunt is the only New York tour you’ll ever need. It looks like someone actually gives tours this way – a new form of urban tourism. What other cities could one do?
Th CBC has a nice (and long) oral history about Hampsterdance: The twisted true story of one of the world’s first memes. Deidre LaCarte created the original site on Geocities in 1998 as a challenge and it took off. As the CBC puts it, it was the original meme to take off. You can see the original here.
It becomes clear as one reads on that none of the assets of the site were original; they were all clipart or music taken from elsewhere. Nonetheless LaCarte and others were able to make some money on the success of the site.
I personally think the first viral internet meme was the Mrs. Fields (or Neiman Marcus) cookie recipe story that circulated by email. It was an urban legend about being billed $250 for a recipe by a Mrs. Fields store and then sharing that recipe. According to Snopes this legend has quite a history going back to a 1948 cookbook.
Today I am attending a conference on Russian Policy and the War in Ukraine’s Donbas – Options for the Future and Canadian Responses. The Kule Institute for Advanced Study is a co-sponsor of the conference as is the Defence Engagement Program of the Department of National Defence. The conference is looking closely at what happened in Donbas how different sides have presented the conflict which has been woven into memorialization of WWW II and before. I was struck by how Russian propaganda continues to delegitimize Ukrainian independence by painting Ukrainian nationalism as an extension of the fascism they fought in WWW II. History is being used and reused on both sides.
Update: We have now put up a video archive of the talks of the conference. Enjoy!