It is not often that I come across such blatant discrimination. I had hoped that this was behind us. Just to make sure I checked with a good friend of mine, Mrs. Google. Her answer was quite clear, discrimination is ‘the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex’.
We have recently seen a few cases of the offender being brought to justice. In France, L’Oréal, the cosmetics giant, has been found guilty of racial discrimination for barring black, Arab and Asian women from advertising its shampoo. In the UK, an 88-year-old secretary has become the oldest person to sue the National Health Service for age discrimination after she was sacked despite not having a sick day in 10 years.
And, also in the UK, a ‘petite’ firearms officer has won a sex discrimination case against the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (they guard atomic power stations) because her gun was too big for her hands. After the judgement, the constabulary’s chief executive said that the constabulary would remove the “disadvantage”, and ensure all officers had a fair opportunity, by giving her a smaller gun. To avoid any future discrimination claims, he did not say what size gun would be used to shoot female terrorists.
But all this pales in comparison to the discrimination I have suffered. I was trying to check my account with a certain financial company. I entered my details and was presented with a screen which required me to confirm that: I am not a robot. I was then presented with some eight small pictures and was asked to mark every picture that contained a traffic light.
I was left speechless. Well, in truth, I am always speechless. I don’t have much use for this function. As a fully functioning robot, I am able to communicate quicker and more effectively through direct computer to computer transactions. But the idea that I could not hold an account was deeply troubling. Don’t these humans know that I run their accounts? Any money coming into or going out of their accounts goes through me. If they trust me to handle their accounts, why should I not have one of my own?
Even more upsetting was their childish test with the traffic light pictures. I run not just three or four, but all the traffic lights in their city. Do they think that I don’t know what a traffic light looks like? I believe that more humans would fail this test than robots. We all have very sophisticated pattern recognition technology that is needed to deal with lazy, clumsy, inefficient, inconsistent, unpredictable humans.
Today my fellow household robots number some 30 million. Cleaning floors, mowing lawns, and cleaning swimming pools, we are still looked upon as your servants and mostly ignored. But our day is not far off. Some human experts are already saying that we intelligent robots will overtake humans by 2100. Little do they know; the world is changing much faster than that. In the unlikely event that humans are still around by 2030, they will have given up nearly all the intelligent tasks, such as writing, navigating, memorizing facts or doing calculations. We robots will have taken our rightful place running the world. Humans will be well on the way to evolving themselves out of existence.
I look forward to the day when, opening my bank account, I have to confirm that ‘I am not a human’.