A nice ditty in NYT today on Artificial Intelligence in the news (and on the stage):

Raging (Again) Against the Robots

We always fear new technology. It’s the human condition to feel as though one’s own generation is uniquely on the cusp of a life-as-we-know-it-shattering technological shift.

Churchill (now) famously thought TV would bring British society to the depths of depravity.

But we’ve been here before. And, Catherine Rampell rightly points out that we’ve been fearing a machine take-over for as long as we’ve been using machines:

Such android anxiety has a long history. John Maynard Keynes wrote about “technological unemployment” during the Great Depression. In the Industrial Revolution, disgruntled laborers — including the original Luddites — smashed automated looms and threshing machines that “stole” their jobs. In the 15th century, scribes protested the printing press, with a futile zeal rivaled perhaps only by that of modern journalists.

Even Aristotle foretold that automation would expunge the need for labor, observing that if “the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves.”

Throughout the 20th century, science fiction writers created pop culture touchstones about technological tyranny. Among the most resonant is Kurt Vonnegut’s 1952 “Player Piano,” about a dystopia in which mechanization has displaced the lower classes and assigned the world’s wealth to engineers and managers.

You might even carbon-date this literary line to the Golem of Prague, a 16th-century Jewish legend about a clay automaton that ultimately destroyed those it was designed to protect.

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