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The Ozarks Oracle was napping.  I waited.  From my folding chair, I could see dense fog falling from the cliff above, spilling around ground cover and silently creeping toward the spring below.  Consciousness is a foundation of our physical world and we can think of it as a field with waves, folds and nodes.  Her mind arises in such a node and she eases out of her dream to form a conversation with the Undeserving Scribe sitting before her.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take a broadsword to millions of well-paying, professional careers. This pandora technology is powerful and promising. In the hands of capitalists, there will be no misgivings about whacking whole generations of lawyers, accountants, doctors, programmers, writers, artists, architects and other white collar jobs when quarterly results demand layoffs.

Fortunately, humans have pretty powerful little 3-pound computers we carry everywhere. We call them brains. Plus, we are literally handy. 

AI will form an empire with linked-together databases and supercomputers, but building and maintaining fleets of robots to do what humans do with a wrench is mostly Hollywood script scares.

People with skills and tool boxes will be hard to replace. As all our technologies become more complex somebody has to keep civilization operating. Cars, houses, tools, gadgets, commercial buildings, appliances, hospitals and schools will be built with technology that demands regular maintenance. This work can’t be done overseas or by spreadsheets.

The daily headlines show us a world in turmoil: fires and wars and tumult in every corner of the globe. 

So, when our world burns with problems, our new mental frame will be problem-solving. This calls for more classes in Critical Thinking in every grade of school because problem-solving is an acquired skill that persists for a lifetime.

The Ozarks Oracle murmurs softly from the mouth of her ancient Ozarks Dolomite Cave, and Dan Chiles is her humble scribe. (Photo provided by Dan Chiles)

Astonishing advances in material science will come from AI-enabled research, but the tough job of prototyping and testing will fall to humans. And when stuff breaks, you’ll still call a human to fix it.

We sometimes look down our noses at technical training when kids can spend 10 times as much money on an English degree, but looking at the cost-benefit, the mental stimulation, the pay scales and the long term opportunities, it’s clear that “occupational training” is the new Ph.D.

Similar opportunities will open in farming. The aquifers, mild weather and ice age soil from our major food producing regions will be gone. Transportation costs will rise and there won’t be money to build new interstate highways to move food cheaply. 

So, if you want to eat, it will pay to know your local farmer. And the Ozarks is the perfect place for small scale agriculture.  

I say thanks to the Oracle and begin the rocky walk up the steps to sunlight.

Dan Chiles

The Ozarks Oracle speaks from the portal of an ancient cave and makes bold predictions for the future of our region. Her scribe, Dan Chiles, is also ancient. Send your comments and reactions to letters@sgfcitizen.org and we will pass them along to the Oracle. More by Dan Chiles