My best childhood memories are of my dad when he hustled me into his Ford Custom van and drove me to his office on Saturdays. It was the late 1970’s or maybe the early 80’s. I’m not entirely sure. Time kind of blended back then.
My father worked for a women’s clothing company. Saturday was the day he would go into work and check the computer systems. Back then, there was no real public internet - at least not the way we think of it today. So at night, the mainframe computer at my father’s office would wake up and call each clothing store’s cash register via modem to ask for the daily sales. Back then, computers communicated at the rate of about 30 characters a second, so with hundreds of stores, the process could take all night and well into the morning. My father went in on Saturday to check the data and system logs so that there would be no surprises on Monday.
I would watch him as he sat in his office smoking a pipe, compiling the information and checking for anomalies. This process gave my father’s company an extreme competitive advantage against other companies that relied on humans making decisions in individual stores. His stores automatically reported items that needed to be restocked or weren’t selling. He instantly directed inventory to the right stores or marked down items until customers started buying.
My father realized something 40 years ago that most people don’t even know right now. He didn’t own a clothing company. He owned a software company that happened to sell clothes.
I’m a software developer, but I’m also a cartoonist. I write bi-monthly cartoon for radiology trade publication that is designed to get a chuckle out of the average radiologist before they head back to their PACS machine. Automation turned my father’s industry on its head and today, it’s making inroads into radiology. Artificial intelligence can already identify tumors 50% more accurately than human diagnostic radiologists. I often wonder if one day AI will put me out of a job. After all, what’s the point in a cartoon about radiologists if no humans are around to read it?
I don’t like to get political. My readers span the ideological spectrum. My main character is a liberal Jewish radiologist and her best friend is a gun-toting Hindu republican from Texas. But you can’t fight for social justice if you are worried about how to make rent and it’s hard to buy a gun if you don’t have a job. People say political parties are modern-day tribes, but left, right or center, we all want to belong to one tribe: the employed.
Make no mistake about it, the robots aren’t coming, they are already here. They first awoke 40 years ago when my father got tired of store managers screwing up order counts over the phone and decided to automate store inventory. The robots are not going away and the only person who has a plan for it is Andrew Yang.
I encourage you to visit Andrew Yang’s website to see how you can get involved.