Artificial Intelligence (AI), Is It Something To Be Afraid Of?

Today, I got a good dose of artificial intelligence, and I am afraid. All we have been hearing of late is that AI will do this and AI will do that with the implication that humans will be no longer be needed. Don’t believe it. That might happen in a hundred years, but it is not ready today. That is why I am afraid. The AI promoters are the same ones who have been drilling man-made global warming on us for the past forty years. When I was still a productive citizen meaning I was still working I was sold on the BS that computer salesman pushed. That was in the 1980’s when the PC was still kind of young. Oh the miracles these devices would perform for us!┬áIt has been thirty-some years since then and I’m still waiting for the miracles to happen. I must admit that PC’s have gotten better and the memory required to do good stuff has grown and some of the pitches are being realized. I was also reading about AI back in the eighties. I’m glad I’m not hanging by my thumbs while waiting for that to happen.

A month ago I got the urge to sell some of the stuff I have laying around the house. I was a big fan of eBay and had well over fifty sales under my belt. It took me a long time to learn how to use the service productively. Naturally, I tried to log in under my old user name and password and failed, and failed, and failed. Nothing I did would get me into my account. In desperation I opened a new account to quit wasting time. I wasted hours trying to get on with a new secure password. Everything I tried failed. Miraculously one of the tries worked and I got on to sell.

I selected two items which I thought would be easy; a Toy train set, and a lift for transferring a person from a bed to a wheelchair. A friend sold a lift just six months ago and clued me in how to ship it. (no shipping only local pickup) Both sales blew up on me. I thought the toy train would be an easy one, and it was, except for shipping. I knew the train would require some special handling because of the size of the box. I made the mistake of holding off specifying the mode of shipment. In their infinite wisdom the AI program picked free shipping because that is what the algorithm directed it to do. I didn’t learn who the buyer was until the auction ended; the buyer is in England. Now I had to undo the damage the program did by messaging the buyer to accept shipping charges. He did. UPS quoted $760, and the post office came in at $136. I went with the post office. The buyer tipped me off that I should inform eBay of our dealings or we would both lose our sell rights. I did. This morning I checked and the buyer had deposited the amount we agreed on. The program then prompted me to save eight bucks by shipping with an eBay label. Of course being a mercenary I pushed that button. It failed. I tried and tried but it kept failing. Finally I said to myself, find a human who can help. I pushed a phone icon to speak to someone. Success, But only after my screen shows me a code. My phone rings and an automaton voice asks for the code. I pump it in and get transferred to another voice. “How may I help you” said the voice. I answered, “I need help printing a label.”

It took repeated tries and three phone calls to finally get the voice to understand something I said. The voice answered “oh shipping, I can’t help you with that please go to the shipping page.”

“Bull shit” I responded, but the voice had already hung up. I really wanted this to work for me, but eBay and its AI wizards can only respond to customers who are also automatons. “Joe” I said to myself. “put a label on the box and take the box to the post office. I did, it worked. I don’t care if eBay gives me a poor rating it won’t be as low as the rating I gave them.

The second item, the lift. This thing is five feet tall, four feet wide and five feet deep and weighs seventy-five pounds. In order to box it I would have to take it apart. I specified local pick up for a reason. You want it, come and get it. Again, I didn’t specify how I would ship it because I didn’t intend to ship it. The eBay algorithm chose USPS and tagged it with a $8.35 shipping cost. I sent the buyer who is from Louisiana an eMail specifying I would return his money because the shipping was not possible for me. He replied “I paid, ship the item.” I responded by saying that if he wanted to drive up to Illinois to pick it up I would be happy to give it to him for the low price he bid. “His response to me ” I can get a brand new one for $150 shipped to my house, fuck you.”

I replied, “I think you should buy the new one. Thanks for the message, and by the way, the drive from Louisiana to Illinois is lovely this time of the year.”

I have sworn off eBay forever, and if they insist on this path using AI to communicate with sellers and buyers there will be many more people like me who will swear off. They are only interested in major sellers, and the onesy-twosy people who made them rich are being dumped.

At my age I can’t be wasting my life learning how to use new technology that is not ready to work. I would have been much better off putting both items at the curb with a sign stating “FREE”.

In between all of this I was communicating, or at least I was trying to communicate, with PayPal. I’ll save that story for another day.

Now does it make sense that I am afraid of artificial intelligence? The whole world is headed this way.

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