You know that the machines are taking over and that soon, very soon, our lives will be dedicated to serving the machines which serve us. That’s my real life job. I service the machines that the students use to write their papers, look at Facebook, and watch hours upon hours of YouTube videos.
The machines host all of human knowledge and people service those machines and the machines that other people use to connect to those machines. People physically repair the machines that make the stuff that we use to repair the machines. The machines run our entire economy, trading our stocks, bonds, money — all human commerce in the West is done through machines, virtual ones and zeroes piped from one machine to another. I swipe my card, my passcode, open access to my little spot on the great machine and trade some machine language for a bottle of whiskey, a bag of food, or repairs to my little dog.
There are jobs that aren’t servicing machines; teacher, bartender, barber, server. Maybe the machines will never do those jobs. But piece by piece I see the machines taking away jobs that used to be done by humans. The lines at every grocery store now have robots – automated checkout machines – and humans dedicated to making sure those machines work properly. I never use them. I don’t like robots. I don’t like using an ATM either. They make you pay to get your money from a machine. How did they trick us into doing that?
Football isn’t run by machines, not yet, but they are trying to replace the referees with machines. I’m sure many of my readers would love robot refs that always get the call right. There are already goal monitoring machines and FIFA is trialling VAR – video assisted refereeing – in Australia. It’s not going well. Fans don’t like it. Maybe the machines will never take over things like football. Maybe some things are just too essentially human, by which I mean flawed.
That’s when the machines will have arrived. People often imagine a future where the machines are perfect, but they already aren’t. They try to program machines to look for nudes on the internet but they return photos of dunes. And we laugh! Stupid machines. But it’s not the machines. It’s the humans. We can’t build something perfect because we aren’t perfect. I think the perfect machine will have to build itself. And that’s when machines will arrive.
And to be most perfect, they will have to be intentionally flawed. To cut someone’s hair, you don’t just snip a perfect line, you actually make a lot of little, slightly off, cuts. Humans don’t like perfect. The human face always has flaws. When we look at a perfectly symmetrical face it’s ugly and weird to us. So, when the programmers make machine faces, they are intentionally flawed, in order to be more acceptable to humans.
So when the perfect machine makes itself, I wonder if it will make itself perfect or intentionally flawed? What flaws will it leave or create?
Tomas Rosicky retired today and he was a perfectly flawed player. Maybe that’s why after a 3-2 win over Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup, January 2015, a game in which Rosicky assisted the second for Mesut Ozil with a slide-rule throughball, and scored the third goal from the top of the box, off the volley, from a return chip by Giroud, Wenger said “If you love football, you love Rosicky.”
Rosicky was with Arsenal for 10 seasons. He made 248 appearances and played 14,802 minutes. That’s the equivalent of just 164.5 full 90 minute games. In that time he scored 29 goals and 22 assists. He spent much of his career injured but when he did play, he seemed to pop up at the most opportune times; scoring twice against Liverpool in the FA Cup, scoring the winner against Tottenham on two occasions, one of those Spurs goals came when he robbed Danny Rose of the ball and just waltzed in to chip the keeper, and his goal advancing Arsenal in the FA Cup against Brighton in 2015.
Rosicky was far from perfect. He was the most single-footed player I have ever seen and he was injured so often that Arsenal supporters called him “Rosicknote”. But he played when he could and when he played he was a joy to watch.