Here we go again.  Experts are stating that in the next few decades robots will take over most of our jobs and we will no longer have to work.  Neil Jacobstein, head of AI at Singularity University, has this to say:

AIs will cause significant unemployment but that doesn’t equate with poverty…AIs and other exponential technologies are going to generate vast amounts of wealth.  We have to be willing to change the social contract we have with people about how wealth is distributed.

Haven’t we heard this song before?  In fact, don’t we hear it on a regular basis?  I remember the black and white films from the ’50s presenting a futuristic lifestyle in which machines do everything for us and all we have to do is find new ways to relax.  If their predictions had been true, I should have been spending the last 20 years or so with my feet up, drinking cocktails.  In fact, computers were supposed to make our lives simpler and easier.  Instead, life is even more complex, fast-paced, stressful.  I have a feeling running a robot society won’t change that any.  And I don’t even want to imagine what happens when we get our minds microchipped, as Mr. Jacobstein suggests–my employer would probably force me to process 10,000 thoughts per minute.

The truth is I don’t want these prophecies about the future to come true.  Because life in those ’50s visions of technological utopia looks…mind-numbingly boring.  People spend their days playing tennis and watching quiz shows on TV.  I already waste too much time on Facebook–would I spend even more time on there?  Sharing updates about what kind of food and drink the robots are serving me, since that would be my only activity anyway?  I suppose I would be able to blog more often.  But if people were no longer getting exploited and overworked by their capitalist bosses, what on Earth would I blog about?

Maybe the reason this makes me so uneasy is that if I didn’t work, there would no longer be any excuse for not getting started on that big fat novel I’m supposed to write.  Come to think of it, the ennui of people who do nothing all day is a perfect subject for angsty fiction.  Hmmm….bring on our robot overlords, I guess.

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As the election approaches, I find myself once again pondering the inconsistencies of our political philosophy.  The message of this election–like that of most American elections–is all about America remaining “number one”.  But how serious are we really about keeping our country at the top of the list?  (And this, naturally, presumes that we’re still there.)

Conservatives are proud of our powerful and technologically advanced military, with its intelligent soldiers.  They brag on achievements like the Curiosity Mars rover.  “We’re still the best!”  But they despise the idea of giving money to an educational system which could teach people needed technological skills, and they are fine with cutting unnecessary frills like financial aid to college students.

President Obama is portrayed by his opponents as the man who will make America slide down that global list.  But would a President Romney be more helpful?  Not that I’m in favor of excessive debt, but will debt really be the thing which causes our demise?  Or the more appropriate question–will it contribute to our demise more than a lack of investment in science and education will?

So let’s not make rash assumptions about who will keep our country stronger and more powerful.  And this might be a good time to rethink what makes for the best place in the world.  Maybe we don’t *need* to be number one…just decent to our own citizens.

In the past few weeks, I have been hearing a lot about liberty.  The freedom to live one’s life as one wishes to live it.  And, of course, the government’s desire to take that liberty away.

I would like to add to that chorus of voices and say that I, too, believe in freedom.

First of all, I believe in the liberty to live my life without having twelve or thirteen children.  We’re not in the nineteenth century anymore and I don’t need to spend my existence as a woman pumping out kids and dying in childbirth.  I want the freedom to fulfill my goals and ambitions, to educate myself, to have a satisfying career and to be creative.  I don’t want that freedom taken away from me as I am reduced to the procreation role of a rabbit. 

Secondly, I believe in my freedom to follow a religion other than that of the conservative Christian church.  As far as I know, we are (still) permitted to follow different religious faiths in this country.  Therefore, I will plan my principles, my sex life, my marriage and my worship rituals around my individual spiritual beliefs.  I realize that there are conservative Christians in government who would like to take those liberties away, but all this means is that they don’t understand the greatness of this country.  I have my conversations with God too—they are not the only ones with that privilege—and the message I’m getting from Him doesn’t bode well for them.

I also believe in the freedom to use my brain.  I don’t think God would have given me an active, functioning, sarcastic mind if I wasn’t meant to use it.  I believe in the freedom we have as a species to use our intelligence, to make amazing technological and medical advances, and to make the world better this way.  I don’t think we should be ashamed of that, as if it somehow takes us further away from God or Nature.  I don’t believe in abandoning all the progress we’ve made so that we can return to the “good old days”.  Or the Dark Ages, more like.  Does anybody here really want to live in a world with no cancer treatments or high-speed Internet?  Moving on, then.

Finally, I would like to live my life free of fear.  Free of the fear that if I develop a serious illness, I will lose everything I have.  The fear that I will be swindled out of my retirement savings.  Or the fear that I will have to spend my life working for minimum wage, because all of our work will get outsourced overseas and there will be no other options for me.  But I forgot…I have already been born, so my well-being means very little to those in power.  Even less since I’m a woman.  If only I was a fetus, perhaps I would have better luck! 

Paper notebooking, that is.

I’ve always been partial to pen and paper, probably because I grew up without computers.  I still write all of the first drafts of my short stories in a notebook, and only then transfer them into Word.  Over the past few years, I’ve been under the sad impression that I’m one of those hopeless dinosaurs, clinging to the ways of the past.  Sort of like my fiction writing college professor who insisted on typing all of her novels on an old typewriter.

But now here comes Julian Assange to rock my world, as always.  Use a condom, Julian!  Heh…sorry about that.  It turns out (and it comes as no big surprise) that our iPhone conversations are being intercepted, our Web surfing is under surveillance.  Leading me to the scary question…especially as an Internet addict…what if one day I am forced to disconnect?

I’ve been fortunate to grow up with parents who participated in a computer-free protest movement back in Poland.  These are the techniques which an American resistance may have to use in some bleak future world.  Illicit pamphlets on illegal printing presses.  Scattering paper leaflets.  Manifestoes on walls.  Good old word of mouth.

Yes, all these are far less quick and efficient methods of communication than my posting this blog right now to a theoretically unlimited audience.  We’ve all seen the social networking potential of the Arab Spring.  But what happens when the online system is controlled by the government we oppose?  What if we can’t use it to resist, precisely because the system is used to monitor our resistance?

If nothing else, I can envision a time when I will once again have to confine my thoughts and opinions to the pages of my private notebook, where they can’t be read, instead of putting them here on my blog.   I hope that day never comes.  But I’m keeping a blank page of paper at my bedside, just in case.