Here we are in the distant future. February of 2020, after Blade Runner and entire decades after the putative settings of various space odysseys and whatnot. We’re still woefully short on:
* space travel
* flying cars
* intelligent robots
and that’s just the beginning of the list. To make matters worse, we are facing an unprecedented crisis. A critical resource, one which employs tens of thousands of people across the country and which is absolutely essential to all segments of the American economy from academic to governmental to corporate, is becoming harder and harder to find. Once upon a time it just bubbled up from the ground; you could find it everywhere from small-town public squares to the Los Angeles streets. Then we had to start digging for it, seeking it out beneath deep layers of rock and out in the ocean. Now, we’re using complex technology to ferret out the last remnants. We’re also creating some of it via artificial means, although the fake stuff doesn’t work as well as the real thing. In the near future, we may have to start looking at serious rationing, just so there’s enough to go around for everyone.
No, I’m not talking about oil. Why would you think that? I’m talking about racism and sexism — but don’t worry, we have our best people on it, and they’ve come up with a brilliant solution to the problem.
what if a smart device, similar to the Amazon Alexa, could tell when your boss inadvertently left a female colleague out of an important decision, or made her feel that her perspective wasn’t valued?
Wonder no more, my friend, because the US Army is funding the creation of just such a device. $1.5 million over three years in feasibility funding, going to just two researchers. That’s some sweet cheddar right there. Why is this funding coming from the Army? Your guess is as good as mine, although I can think of one way in which such a device could have real strategic value: just drop millions of copies into the cubicles of our enemies and watch as they self-implode or something.
Welles says the grant—which she and Riedl will undertake in collaboration with research colleagues from Columbia University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Army Research Lab—will allow her and her colleagues to program a sensor-equipped, smart device to pick up on both verbal and nonverbal cues, and eventually physiological signals, shared between members of a team. The device would keep track of their interactions over time, and then based on those interactions, make recommendations for improving the team’s productivity.
“You could imagine [a scenario] where maybe a manager at the end of a group deliberation gets a report that says person A was really dominating the conversation,” says Welles. The smart device would alert the manager to the participants whose input might have been excluded, she says, with a reminder to follow up with that individual.
That’s right: the Sexism And Racism Detection Device won’t just listen to what you say. It will observe your body. Maybe pick up on subvocals. I’m reminded of a science-fiction novel, one in which there are no flying cars:
He did not know how long she had been looking at him, but perhaps for as much as five minutes, and it was possible that his features had not been perfectly under control. It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself—anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.
Any sane person would be horrified at the suggestion of a device which would aid in the detection of facecrime. In 2020, there’s going to be competition to see who can get one made first. Does it even need to be stated that such a device will be programmed by Indian H1-Bs, which will benefit the Indian economy, and will be made in China, where it will benefit the Chinese economy, but will be used against native-born Americans in the United States, where it will aid in our ever-more-energetic slouching towards Gomorrah?
Even more fascinating and horrifying than the device itself, however, is the philosophical basis of its creation. This Demon Alexa is meant to unearth “implicit bias”. Remember that phrase, because you’re going to hear it a lot more in the future.
You see, once upon a time we had real old-fashioned racism and sexism in this country. It took many forms, from mandated back-of-the-bus seating to a Land Rover salesman telling my first wife in 1997 that she couldn’t drive the Discovery we were about to buy without having her husband present. (I ended up buying my Disco from another dealer.) Like oil in the early twentieth century, it just appeared. It was everywhere. You didn’t have to look for it.
After a coordinated program of mass cultural indoctrination which exceeded the Manhattan Project in its scope, cost, and jurisdiction, Americans have pretty much eliminated the raw forms of these thoughtcrimes. It is our new religion, and here’s the proof: we now encourage people to mock Christ in public — we even pay them to do so — but the mere whisper of what this blog must call “the N-word” is enough to get you permanently unemployed for life. You can make hundreds of jokes about raping children during the height of your career, as Disney director James Gunn did in public, and the media will stand behind your redemption arc, but if there is a grainy video of you making a racial slur in 1980, you’re done, my friend. It’s possible to lose your sponsor because your father said something vaguely insensitive forty years ago. Ask Conor Daly about that. He was born ten years after his father said something unpleasant in a radio interview, and he got punished for it. Pretty soon we’ll revive the Biblical punishment of “unto the third generation”.
I am certain there are still isolated incidents of old-fashioned racism in this country, but there are also isolated incidents of measles and beastiality. No doubt there remains plenty of individual discrimination, but the same is true regarding fat people, ugly people, and people who went to the university which beat your alma mater in the Rose Bowl. The Kulturkampf has been won and the resistance has been mopped up. There’s just one little problem: during that Kulturkampf, we built a massive racism-sexism-industrial complex which is economically dependent on the discovery, and persecution, of bigotry. Like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which paid $400,000 a year to its bigwigs while using racial-slurs in-house against its own black employees. In a world with no racism, the SPLC has no reason to exist — but if you’re one of its executives, you’re not going to come out and say that your work is finished, are you?
There’s an old stock-market adage that goes something like “When your shoeshine boy has market tips, it’s time to sell.” The modern equivalent of that is, “When you hear someone use the phrase ‘shoeshine boy’, you can earn money and exposure by calling them out.” The racism-sexism-industrial complex has grown faster than the stock market over the past two decades — and much like the stock market, no one is quite sure that there are any fundamentals beneath the growth. From plain-and-obvious racism, we devolved to “institutionalized racism,” which means “anything that a sufficiently moronic jury might award damages about.” That’s the deep-sea drilling of the race biz: expensive to do, but hugely rewarding to the people who work the equipment. That led to the creation of Woke Capital, which in turn drastically reduced the chances to get rich from finding racism in corporate America.
So here we are in 2020. The trappings of traditional racism have long since disappeared from public discourse or behavior. Corporations spend more time on promoting hijabs, diversity intiatives, and pride flags than they do on their actual business activity. The last frontier of bigotry, the ultra-right wing of American politics, is now tripping all over itself to embrace diversity in all its forms. The new face of the NRA is a Black man with the stage name Colion Noir; the face of young conservative voters is a black woman named Candace Owens; the “Pink Pistols” are gay libertarians who argue against firearms regulation. If you want to read an actual racist statement in public now, you have to wait for someone to call a black Republican a racial slur.
Faced with a similar situation a while ago, American oil companies started “fracking”, using technology to disturb the environment in the pursuit of extracting whatever oil was left in the old fields. When I read about “an Alexa-style device” to detect and report on “implicit bias”, I can’t help but think of fracking. In this case, the oil fields are us. We’ve been drained of our traditional racism through conditioning, and taxed heavily to enrich the racism-industrial industry. We’re just about tapped out. So these machines are going to watch our faces and hands to see if we have any “implicit”, which is to say imaginary, racism left.
In the future, you’ll need one of these devices present if you’re going to speak to your colleagues. It will determine if you are sexist or racist. You won’t know exactly how, because if you knew exactly how then you could “game the test” by not saying or doing any of those things. They don’t want you to game the test. They want you to be afraid. They want you to be aware that they hold the power over you. “They” being the mandarins of Human Resources, of course. The bizarre transfer of authority from the C-suite to the HR department, a process which has been in full swing for some time now, will be aided and abetted by this.
No doubt the devices will be challenged in court. That one wackjob in Hawaii who keeps trying to overturn the election will support them. The 9th Circuit Court will suggest that they be forcibly implanted in the already overtaxed colons of steak-eating straight white men. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who in a few years will simply be a Disney animatronic puppet operated by the Democratic National Committee via an iPhone app, will speak in their defense. These people will tell us that the Framers Of The Constitution absolutely intended to lay the ideological groundwork for the introduction of Sexism Alexas, said devices being very much in the mind of James Madison at the time when he wrote
As for a musket which could contain multiple charges — that is the work of Satan, and unlikely to occur before the return of Christ, depending as it does upon the infernal conception of a magical device which could capture the expended energy of a charge to move a metal slide and permit entry to its successor. While this has been accomplished to a certain degree in naval gunnery, such a device in hand-held fashion befouls the imagination even as it befuddles it. But I do verily perceive that natural language processing may well occur via prediction trees, allowing the Snapdragon processor to rank the Bayesian coefficient of correlation with established patterns of workplace bias. Therefore, the Second Amendment shall not apply to anything beyond a blackpower musket, and the First shall apply to Snapchat nudes, at such time as Snapchat is created.
That’s in the Federalist E-Mails, right? In any event, don’t expect much protection from the courts. At least not here in the United States. In the UK, it will be even worse, because they’ve criminalized ungoodthink for a while now, and this device will aid in its prosecution.
There’s an irony to this, and it goes something like: “Bias” by its definition means deviation from a standard. If you set the standard at “ultra-woke Earlham College Class of 2022”, then your device really measures the gap in years between the time when that standard person set her attitudes and the time when your test subject established hers. It will be easily tripped by people like Joe “Poor Kids Are Just As Bright As White Kids” Biden. It won’t be a woke-tester; it will be an age detector. Which is another way of saying that the Implicit Bias Tester will, out of necessity, have an implicit, and implacable, bias against old people.
Which is fine. The Alaskan tribes would leave their old people behind when they moved camp; their successors will use machines like this to not-so-gently whisk them out of the workplace. It’s just a way to clear space for the youngsters. Therefore, to my previous statement that all public policy exists to preserve the Boomer economy until their death, add another one: All new public policy is designed to get rid of old people, particularly old white people. What’s the definition of “old”? Well, it’s terribly biased of you not to know.