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Rushing toward the future

By LIL MIRANDO editor@hammondstar.com

Thoughts turn to the future as one year ends and another is about to begin.

My husband, the Professor, and I sit at our dining table as he grades papers with his green pen and I download and upload information on my laptop.

From time to time, he will pipe up and say, for example, "What's the difference between toward and towards?" or "Does idiosyncrasy have two i's or three?" as if I know the answer.

In recent years, I would pause from what I was doing and Google it for him.

This year, one of the hot, trendy products was the Google-Mini and, at my suggestion, our daughter gave him one for Christmas. I set up the little device near his chair.

Now, he will ask, for example, "Hey, Google, what is the price of tea in China?" and Google-Mini will immediately answer in a young female voice, "On the website telegraph.co.uk, they say a cake of 2-year-old Ye Sheng Gucha tea costs 260 yuan (about 18 pounds), while the 13-year-old tea sells for 1,800 yuan."

And I just continue with my uploading and downloading.

Goggle puts information at our fingertips. With Google-Mini, all we have to do is ask.

The "Star Trek" age has arrived. I'm still waiting for the transporter to beam me up, Scotty, but maybe I'll succumb to holograms first. Just plant the chip in my head --but please don't. Not while I can still think, sense and breathe for myself.

If your New Year's weekend celebration involves a movie binge, I recommend the 1999 sci-fi, "The Matrix," probably on Netflix. Its premise is that humans physically exist in storage pods where their minds are shut down or engaged in fantasy while their bodies are used to fuel machines.

It's visionary and downright scary, especially when you consider how people today are rushing to embrace artificial intelligence.

We're addicted to our devices. Kids used to get bicycles for Christmas; now they ask Santa for tablets and SnapChat Spectacles.

Sure, some people still fall asleep with their TV sets tuned to Hallmark reruns or talk shows, but a growing number of us nod off with smart phones in hand "trending" YouTube videos. Believe it or not, more or us will watch fantasy sports than college football bowls today.

We're disinterested in distinguishing between real and "fake" news and actually prefer the fake.

We'd rather Instant Message than actually use our voices in face-to-face personal contact with other humans. But we like having "conversations" with Alexa, Siri, Google-Mini and Tyche, our artifically intelligent "personal assistants" and "social companions."

Even in our schools, sometimes it feels like we're giving priority to teaching computer skills over teaching kids how to use their brains.

Meanwhile, jobs for humans are disappearing. Just a few years ago, we were told artificial intelligence would never replace jobs like health care and personal care, but the latest word is those jobs will disappear like so many others have. We are told AI will open up jobs in STEM, but really? Can't computers do those kinds of jobs much more efficiently too?

Do we really believe we won't need to work in order to enjoy our current standard of living? How will we be able to afford our addictions?

And still we rush to embrace AI.

The middle class is shrinking. We're heading back to a time when very few held all the wealth and the rest were the poor masses. The only resources we will have are our minds and bodies, and what are minds and bodies good for if there are no jobs for human beings? In "The Matrix," the only purpose for humans was to produce fuel for the machines.

Maybe it will start with people who have dementia and Alzheimer's. Put the chip in their heads and their lives will be easier. What about the rest of us? Who's next? Will people with no jobs and no sense of purpose be willing to live in a fantasy world while computers drain their energy?

What's to stop the Powers That Be from programming the chip in our heads to switch from pleasant fantasies to horrible nightmares so as to rev up our body's adrenalin -- the way dogs are tortured in Guangxi, China, to rev up their adrenalin for tastier products at the Yulin Dog Meat Festival?

Since the days of Adam and Eve, people have wanted to be God and think that means controlling everyone else and everything. False gods distract us and dummy us down. Addicted to our devices, we do not think for ourselves and are vulnerable to manipulation by whomever speaks the loudest and the longest. We forget the job our Creator gave us -- to be stewards of the earth.

Our Creator is the only intelligence greater than human intelligence. When humans remember the true God, we will rise up against our addictions to the false ones.

I asked, "Hey, Google, what's Armageddon?"

It replied, "Armageddon, in the new Testament, the last battle between good and evil before the Day of Judgment."

Just something to think about as we charge up our batteries for a new year.

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Lil Mirando gets calls at 985-254-7834.