Please explain technophobia

I’d really like to avoid starting this artificial intelligence post with mentioning Watson. Oops, too late. You’ve probably heard about Watson, the IBM computer that plays Jeopardy. Hopefully you also know that Watson’s Jeopardy prowess isn’t really what’s important here. I get nervous when I think about those people who doesn’t appreciate or understand the importance of a computer learning to parse questions given in a natural language. So it worries when I see articles like this on NPR. This isn’t the first time NPR has released a negatively biased segment about artificial intelligence. I’m actually kind of disgusted, and I haven’t even read the comments yet.

Using the nation’s volatile fear and worry about our current employment situation as a way to stir up hostility toward scientific advancement just really bothers me. I think the use of the word “machine” is particularly interesting here. It’s very negative-sounding, but why? Our prestigious bank teller and airline check-in agent positions are the epitome of meaningful and need to be protected, right?. I think Iain Banks sums it up pretty nicely in this interview with CNN.

CNN: In the Culture’s post-scarcity society, where no one needs for anything, you’re removing a lot of the struggle around everyday life. Is that not removing the point of life itself?

Iain M. Banks: I think a lot of the struggle is kind of pointless and is in itself boring. The struggle for existence for most people most of the time, especially in a post-agricultural, industrial society, is a bit of a grind. People have to work very hard and awfully long hours for not a great deal of money: if you don’t, you get virtually nothing. Life’s not much fun, frankly, so I’d quite happily trade in that struggle.

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