“I’m not sure how much longer I can take these twelve-hour shifts.” His words come out in a long sigh.
“Aren’t they going to hire more people?”
He gazes over at his wife, Ellen, just as she kicks her high heels in the general direction of their bedroom and plops onto the barstool. With her elbows propped on the counter and her hair still dripping wet from the rain, she looks as if she melted onto the chair rather than sat there.
“Fat chance. Rumor has it they’re planning to add robotics and AI. At this rate I’ll be sitting at some desk selling insurance next year instead of stacking boxes at the warehouse.” Straightening, he reaches down to the coffee table and flips open his laptop. “Or I’ll become a YouTuber.”
Ellen smiles, then spins around and picks up her phone. “I seem to remember reading something about AI and robotics.”
As she thumbs through her screen, Malcolm has a peek at the day’s depressing news. There are updates on the war. Articles on how the price of gas, along with everything else, continues to climb. But when his display fills with the image of Marjorie Taylor Greene, her picture much clearer than her memory, he shakes his head and shifts to things happening locally.
But it’s not any better. Another shooting, this one at a shopping mall. A man was crushed under a car trying to steal a catalytic converter. Parents in an outlying suburb have pulled their kids from school in protest of critical race theory.
“Enough,” he says, a little too loud.
Ellen looks up from her phone. “Enough?”
“Sorry. I just think we’re slowly going insane.”
“Slowly?” she asks with a sly smile.
Appalled by the news, he clicks on Facebook. But only a moment passes before he’s waving a dismissing hand at the screen. To the Keystone Kops theme music, a video plays showing “workers” setting one long ladder atop another, the bottom one balanced on a bucket, in the pretense of painting the upper part of a staircase. He knows exactly where this is headed. “I hate these reels and short videos. They’re worse than TikTok and Mark won’t let you permanently hide the damn things.”
“Mark? Oh, the Facebook guy.” She sits up in her chair. “I found it. There are some new advances on teaching AI how to reason. For us it’s intuitive, but in the world of bits and bytes, it’s much harder to master. They say if it takes, it won’t be long before robots and their AI minds will be more intelligent than us.”
Malcolm lets his stare fall to the laptop. A video is playing in which a woman is trying to dress a raccoon in a fairy costume. Wings and all.
“Hate to say this, but I think they already are.”