by Nicolas Lucente
“Johnson!” I heard Mr. Peterson yell from down the hall. I’ve been working my tail off, but I can’t seem to get him off my back. I heard his footsteps grow louder and louder as he approached my cubicle.
“Yes sir, what can I do for you?” I respond as I see his head pop over the short wall of my office space.
“For starters, you can do some real work. How about that?” Mr. Peterson starts. “I swear I’ve given you an infinite number of chances to prove yourself and you never seem to pull through. This may be your last shot, Johnson. Do not blow it.”
Wall Street is not what it used to be. What was once a bunch of people grinding away selling stocks all day has now become a competition between humans and AI. I am one of the remaining human stockbrokers still left at the firm. Most of us have already been replaced by artificial intelligence programs that are far better at predicting the stock market than the rest of us. I mean, they were built for this– I had to learn it. While it is an unfair advantage, it’s what I love. Or at least what I used to love, that is, before the AI became a popular alternative. At this point, we all know we’re only kept around to have a couple of faces in the office, not just machines without emotion.
In 2045, artificial intelligence has replaced most basic jobs. Truck drivers are no longer around, cashiers are a thing of the past, accountants are pretty much all AI and now they are coming for my job.
Every day I take the train home feeling unfulfilled, not because I don’t try, but because the AI beat me to everything before I can even think of it. Ten years ago was a different story. These programs were still in the early stages and were not effective. I had just graduated from Cornell University and people were acting like I was going to be just fine, more than just fine, mentors of mine were telling me I was more than prepared to be a success on Wall Street. No one predicted the rise of artificial intelligence to occur at this rate. “AI will surely be the future, but it will be the future of factory jobs. No way it touches respected professions for generations,” my favorite professor, Dr. Williams, once told me. Dr. Williams was wrong and now AI has wiped out an extraordinary number of jobs, and mine is next.
As I head home after a miserable day of work, I notice how empty the train is. I’ve been taking this train for practically ten years now and I just realized the drop in attendance. The six o’clock train used to be way too crowded; you’d be lucky to get a seat. Now, it’s me and about six other people, give or take. I have no idea if it has anything to do with AI, but it sure is on my mind with how things are going at work.
Pulling into my driveway, I take a second to reflect. “What if I get fired?” I think to myself. “What will I do?” I see my wife wave from the window. I wave back with a fake smile.
As I walk into the house, I am greeted by two hyper children. “Hi Daddy!” I hear both of them yell as they attempt to hug me.
“Well hello little turds, how are we today?” I reply to my son and daughter.
“Hey, I told you to stop calling your children turds,” I hear my wife, Serena, yell from the other room.
“Yeah, yeah,” I say. “But they love it, they think it’s funny. Don’t ya kiddos?” I say as I start to chase after them with evil tickling intentions.
After dinner, I crack open a beer and sit on the couch with no intention to watch anything on television. Serena walks down the stairs after putting the kids to bed.
“You okay, hon?” she asks, clearly noticing the stress that covered my face like a mask.
“It’s just these damn AI programs,” I reply. “My boss is on my ass and I keep trying, but I can’t seem to do better than the technology that was literally made to do my job.”
“I don’t know what we will do if I lose my job.”
“Honey, we will figure it out. Together. Like we always have.”
That was five years ago.
Now, I continue to be the best stockbroker on Wall Street and still fall short to the AI every day. Should I give up? Probably, but I can’t. I worked too hard and for too long to lose to a machine.
“Maybe, you should take a step back. Maybe, just maybe, the work is not as important as your family life,” the therapist tells me with a soft, slightly patronizing voice.
I wipe my face realizing I have become way too engulfed in my own story as I lay on this uncomfortable couch and talk to a person I barely know about the struggles I have experienced in the last eight years of my career: the eight years of bullying I have experienced from the artificial intelligence that has rendered my work worthless.
“Do you think that maybe your obsession with being better than the AI programs is the reason your wife took your children?”
After reading these articles about the advancements of artificial intelligence, I wanted to take it a step further and go down a trail of what the future of more prestigious jobs may look like. Based on these articles, it does not seem completely out of reach for AI to eventually take over some white-collar jobs as they will with some blue-collar jobs.
My name is Nicolas Lucente, I am a multiplatform journalism major with a creative writing minor at Duquesne University. I have always had a passion for writing, both journalistically and creatively, and I am excited to work with the D.U.Quark this semester. I intend to write fiction stories that are rooted in science, whether that is science of today or tomorrow. Hopefully, you find them interesting and educational.