My Dream

D.L. Henderson

I just had the strangest dream. It wasn’t weird. It wasn’t a nightmare.

There was a group of young people, men and women. They were working on a project for the betterment of mankind. All they had to work with were some basic hand tools and drills. Working in a simple room with windows open toward the beach and the sea. The sky was clear. The sea was calm.

As they worked on some simple mechanical metal parts, as they were putting them together, they had in mind their project was for the betterment of mankind. So, they worked with determination.

As one man began to drill and assemble some of the parts, the parts began to assemble on their own. Startled, the young man looked up at the others.

All of the parts were moving on their own. There was a strange humming. Suddenly, they noticed a ship out in the ocean nearby. Was someone or something on the ship somehow controlling the assembly of the parts? Something had animated the parts and taken over their project. They had an eerie feeling that not only had they lost control of the project, but also their purpose: the betterment of all mankind.

At that, I awoke.

What was that about?! Usually, details of my dreams are long forgotten by now. Though lately, they have been more nightmarishly weird, all in ecru black and white and remembered. All staged in very similar stark and barren settings long abandoned. This dream however was in brilliant color.

Was this about people, our neighbors, losing their jobs to computer animated machines? Was it about our co-workers losing their purpose, their dreams of a better world and a better life for themselves and their families? Was the dream about the death of the “American Dream?” Or simply the loss our very own hopes and dreams?

I went on to surmise this was about AI taking over the industrial revolution. Some envision no job and no person exists which cannot be replaced by AI. They don’t worry about the fact that they also can be replaced.

I put this in the context of history. At the birth of the Industrial Revolution, in the 1800’s, the visionaries promised a tremendous growth in leisure time so “people” would have more time to pursue the arts, the sciences, leisure activities, and such. Looking back through the lens of today’s society and economy and today’s news about so many folks clueless about the sensitivities of others, it is my assertion that the movers and shakers of that time defined “people” as people exclusively like themselves: wealthy owners of large businesses and manufactories and politicians in positions of power over the masses — all the machinery, all the levers and buttons, all the crowded tenements, all the poverty. These chose not to see the living conditions folks were living in. They didn’t see the point. Why bother?

Then there was a second Industrial Revolution in the 1900’s. Same promises. Same attitudes. Same conditions. Same outlook of people over other “people.” Forget about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 23, 1911…We’re getting rich! This is just a hiccup in Progress! We have the promise!

Then came the third. Electric power. Even more leisure time! Mechanization of farms…This freed up thousands and thousands! More for us! More and more! More for them. Huge migrations to urban areas; more “people” to work, to pursue the leisurely pursuits, improving mankind.

Now we have the fourth Industrial Revolution. Another huge migration…to the unemployment lines. (Don’t worry: we’ll train you for the jobs of tomorrow. What’s that new Parkland expression? “I call BS!”

All those “Silicon Valley” geniuses don’t seem to realize the mathematical reality that they are working themselves out of a job also.

Ya’ know, Henry Ford invented the mass production line. Yeah, it ground “people” into the ground, but at least he had figured out that if you paid your workers enough to buy the cars they were making, he could sell more cars. Today’s hoarders of wealth are so petrified of losing an ounce of their money, they ignore that principal of capitalism. “The less we pay out, the more we make. The fewer “people” and the more robots is even more wealth for the real people,” is their innermost operative thinking.

My economic theory has become this: If the 1% gave 90% of their wealth to the rest of us, it would all come back to them at about 200%.

I’m pretty sure they could live quite comfortably for a little while on millions of dollars instead of billions. Are they afraid their wealth is merely paper wealth, that they are building their houses on shifting sand?

Once I took a Labor Studies history course which compared standards of living by income levels. I forget the exact income levels, but in the early 1900’s, folks making about $250 rented, both parents worked, and the kids worked instead of going to school, picking up coal along the railroad tracks, for example. Folks making around $350, the kids went to school and maybe Mom stayed home. Those who had a good Union job made around $450 owned a house, had a piano, perhaps the kids went to college. “Well,” I thought,”that’s pretty much like today.”

However, the professor rudely interrupted my utopian thoughts by adding the small detail that their incomes were based on annual statistics. My conclusions had been based on weekly income.

What kind of economic system does that? In 100 years incomes have grown 50X, and the standard of living has remained the same.

In my youth, a candybar cost a nickel. Now, they cost more than a dollar.

Hmmm…5 cents…$1…

It’s reported that one fabulously wealthy “country” star owns more than 20 houses. I wonder if she has a home.

Homeless populations are increasing. I wonder if they all have families.

Children are being separated from their parents and living in cages.

Wow…

This is supposed to be a “Christian Nation?”

Wow…

One last thing: Can AI dream? Can it imagine? Can it change course, even “think outside the box?” Can it create something new? It is animated, but is it truly alive? It is only a very complex mathematical algorithm stuck inside a plastic man made box limited to the narrow, material facet of the universe’s dynamic existence. It is no more than another idol to be worshipped.

God have mercy on us if we let it rule over us.

Born 1950; HS 1968; Born again 1972; Cornell ILR; Steward, Local President/Business Agent; Husband, father, grandfather; winner/loser/everything in between