AI

April 27, 2021

Melissa was one of the lucky ones who was hired during the start of the pandemic.  Her job site was an hour and a half away but at least it was mostly an interstate drive.  We had my Jeep and the convertible so she felt the drive would be fine.  Within the first two weeks the semi-trucks that drove the highway threw rocks cracking the convertible’s low-lying windshield, and its replacement.  That was when she decided it was time to get a bigger vehicle that could withstand the daily trips north.  A friend told her how much she liked her own car.  This was an all-wheel drive that also let her combat the occasional snow going over the pass into northwest Arkansas.  Another feature of the car is driver assist powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.  We found a similar used vehicle and purchased it.

The AI feature of the car is in the front windshield and includes an automatic braking system.  That means when you are in cruise control if you get too close to the car in front of you it automatically brakes.  The other AI is in the lane assist feature that helps keep you from drifting as you speed down the highway.  Since this was Melissa’s car, I had little reason to drive it.  We usually took my jeep when we went together and if we took her car, I always let her drive.  I had driven the car several times, but I found the AI technology (particularly the cruise control) was not self-intuitive (at least for me).  Shortly after purchasing the car the pandemic caused most of the workers, and Melissa, to begin working from home.  With her health condition lately, she has not been going on side trips.  That meant the car has not been driven much lately.  It was easier for me to take my jeep.

I knew you needed to drive any car (at least occasionally) to keep the battery changed and the engine lubricated.  I hopped into the car on Sunday and took off for work.  I quickly remembered that I did not know how to operate the cruise control.   I pulled to the side of the road and took out the manual but did not find what I needed.  I called Melissa and she walked me through the AI to operate the car.   She also warned me, the braking system would not tell me when it slowed down for the car in front of me.  I began driving, set the cruise with the new information, and went north.  I admit, it took a while to get a feel for the AI technology.  I did not like the distractions it caused at first (Slow down! Lane drift!), but I gradually became used to it.  Once I understood, AI made the trip easier.

Thoughts:  The industrial revolution dramatically changed the way people work (John Henry drove piles for the railroad but was replaced by a steam driven pile driver).  Ford’s assembly line stripped craftsmanship from most manufacturing and production.  Now the information revolution is changing lives as AI changes the way we work.  Some are worried the advancing AI technology will create a loss of human jobs (news flash, it will).  I have seen ads this week about Pizza Hut delivering pizza with a self-driving car.  Shelves are being stocked and orders filled by robots at Amazon warehouses.  While AI replaces repetitive human jobs, it also frees time for other tasks (making pizza) and creates jobs that did not previously exist (robot overseer).  AI is neither a pariah nor savior, it is just another way to get things done.  The trick is to understand and innovate to find ways for humans to have meaningful work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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