• AI pitchmen don’t make it easy. They like to pile on the cognitive dissonance and demand that we all somehow resolve it. This is a thing cult leaders do, too – tell blatant and obvious lies to their followers. When a cult follower repeats the lie to others, they are demonstrating their loyalty, both to the leader and to themselves. (View Highlight)
  • The most prominent Mechanical Turk huckster is Elon Musk, who habitually, blatantly and repeatedly lies about AI. He’s been promising “full self driving” Telsas in “one to two years” for more than a decade. Periodically, he’ll “demonstrate” a car that’s in full-self driving mode – which then turns out to be canned, recorded demo: (View Highlight)
  • The human-in-a-robot-suit gambit is everywhere in AI hype. Cruise, GM’s disgraced “robot taxi” company, had 1.5 remote operators for every one of the cars on the road. They used AI to replace a single, low-waged driver with 1.5 high-waged, specialized technicians. Truly, it was a marvel. (View Highlight)
  • Globalization is key to maintaining the guy-in-a-robot-suit phenomenon. Globalization gives AI pitchmen access to millions of low-waged workers who can pretend to be software programs, allowing us to pretend to have transcended the capitalism’s exploitation trap. This is also a very old pattern – just a couple decades after the Mechanical Turk toured Europe, Thomas Jefferson returned from the continent with the dumbwaiter. Jefferson refined and installed these marvels, announcing to his dinner guests that they allowed him to replace his “servants” (that is, his slaves). Dumbwaiters don’t replace slaves, of course – they just keep them out of sight: (View Highlight)
  • So much AI turns out to be low-waged people in a call center in the Global South pretending to be robots that Indian techies have a joke about it: “AI stands for ‘absent Indian’”: (View Highlight)
  • According to this reader, the AI cameras didn’t work any better than Tesla’s full-self driving mode, and had to be backstopped by a minimum of three camera operators in an Indian call center, “so that there could be a quorum system for deciding on a customer’s activity – three autopilots good, two autopilots bad.” (View Highlight)
  • What was missing from the criticism? Articles that said that Amazon was probably lying about its robots, that it had replaced low-waged clerks in the USA with even-lower-waged camera-jockeys in India. (View Highlight)
  • See the difference? Criticize Amazon for its devastatingly effective automation and you help Amazon sell stock to suckers, which makes Amazon executives richer. Criticize Amazon for lying about its automation, and you clobber the personal net worth of the executives who spun up this lie, because their portfolios are full of Amazon stock: (View Highlight)
  • Amazon Go didn’t go. The hundreds of Amazon Go stores we were promised never materialized. There’s an embarrassing rump of 25 of these things still around, which will doubtless be quietly shuttered in the years to come. But Amazon Go wasn’t a failure. It allowed its architects to pocket massive capital gains on the way to building generational wealth and establishing a new permanent aristocracy of habitual bullshitters dressed up as high-tech wizards. (View Highlight)
  • “Wizard” is the right word for it. The high-tech sector pretends to be science fiction, but it’s usually fantasy. For a generation, America’s largest tech firms peddled the dream of imminently establishing colonies on distant worlds or even traveling to other solar systems, something that is still so far in our future that it might well never come to pass: (View Highlight)