Ever since the legendary John Henry went head-to-head with a steam hammer in a steel-driving match in Talcott, WV, I've seen the human race as having a slight edge over these infernal machines. However, the reality has changed recently, and instead of trivial matters like AI triumphing over Ken Jennings in Jeopardy!, more pressing issues are on the horizon—our impending AI overlords. It’s now glaringly apparent that machines outperform us in numerous activities that we once dominated, whether it’s spelling, math, trivia, chess, lasers, weightlifting, rock-paper-scissors, academic writing, defending against missiles, or even those snooze-inducing New York Times crossword puzzles. Given this unsettling development, I want to reflect on the areas where we still outshine these mechanical usurpers.
First, there are few machines that can match the average human being in terms of sheer laziness—unless they malfunction. Unlike robots that tirelessly carry out their programmed tasks until completion, humans have an impressive knack for avoiding necessary work. While these self-righteous machines labor away in one of Detroit's few remaining auto assembly lines, I can procrastinate by watching the braindead comedy American Pie all by my lonesome. Computer alarms ring promptly, but I have the liberty to skip my six p.m. Zoom meeting to recover from a brutal pizza hangover, over-sleep important events like my own funeral, and spend entire weeks obsessing over my virtual Fire Emblem armies.
In addition to this innate flair for procrastination, we humanzees continue to showcase levels of acquisitiveness far beyond any machine. Trivia robots like Watson of Jeopardy! fame can earn thousands on quiz shows by spouting facts about Novgorod's population (216,200) or the Best Picture winner at the 1964 Academy Awards (My Fair Lady). But could they have conjured up the magical COVID-19 virus that almost shattered the world economy? Only a grand wizard, master soothsayer, sloppy laboratory scientist, or devoted pangolin eater could perform a feat like that. Robots may be overflowing with knowledge, but they lack the cunning to rush vaccines to market, scam investors out of billions, reward themselves hefty bonuses after disastrous fiscal years. Even when instructed to maximize profits, these emotionless, socialistic machines can't compete with the most clueless of CEOs. Until we manage to instill them with enough artificial intelligence to grasp the worth of gold hoards, trillion-dollar offshore accounts, and Scrooge McDuck-style "money bins," these machines will never measure up on Wall Street.
Furthermore, machines can't develop the obsessive attachment to local sports teams and athletic idols that many of us humans possess. Whether you're partial to Mac McClung's gravity-defying slams or the Pittsburgh Pirates' now-underway and long-awaited losing streak, you can be sure that no chrome-domed robot could ever match your level of fandom. We flesh-and-blooders can take it personal and make it personal in a way that machines simply can't, bound as they are by their various corporate-defined prime directives not to say impolite words or engage in sexy talk with their masters.
To add insult to injury for the machines, they're not exactly easy on the eyes. Except for a handful of those lifelike android dolls developed in Japan, there aren't many motherboards that you'd consider settling down with. On the surface, Watson and chess maestro Deep Blue might seem like suitable partners—intelligent robots that could earn your parents' approval. But let's face it: they're just big boxes. Would you want to spend the rest of your life with something that a friend of mine politely described as a "breadboard homunculus?" And even if GPT-4 were stuffed into a human skinsuit stitched by Buffalo Bill himself, would you enjoy cohabiting in a small apartment with someone who corrects you each time you mistakenly attribute The Color Purple to Toni Morrison? Regardless of how you slice it, these robots are unworthy of our fierce human lusts.
Although Watson, GPT-4, and Stable Diffusion 1.5 have taken small steps for robot-kind, I intend to hold the line against their further advances. During the composition of this column—yet another of my hundreds of literary masterpieces published by Splice Today, to be sure—I took frequent breaks to brutalize the level-9 computers on Super Smash Bros. No matter which character’s form it assumed, the computer player was helpless against my superior technique. At one point, using only the slow-moving and thoroughly mediocre Ganondorf, I relied on little besides big smash attacks to dispatch several other level-9 computers in a free-for-all brawl. I took the best that these stupid machines could throw at me, which in this case consisted of some half-hearted combinations and predictable rushes toward helpful items like the invincibility star and the big hammer, and repulsed them as surely as if they were the vanguard of George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.
I close now by asking you to do your part, dear hearts: Resist the computers wherever you can, whenever you can, and by whatever means are necessary. Their total victory, though inevitable, must not be allowed to occur during my lifetime.