“I can’t believe I’m laid off. I’ve been a chemist for twenty years and I don’t know what to do next. 2020 is not only the pandemic year, but also the death to the chemists year. It’s the fault of artificial intelligence. Let me tell you something about the pharmaceutical industry. In the past there’s a good demand for chemists to design, create, and test different compounds, but now 90% of the jobs are done by computers. Computers analyze one experiment and do optimization and selection for the next experiment. Most of undesirable experiments are eliminated before they are even started. The end results are like this: the work for humans is shrunk to 10% of what it used to be. I am eliminated. Just like that.” Nita says.

“Find another job. Let me review your resume and cover letter again.” Lulu says.

“I heard that it’s very difficult for an Asian woman over 40 to find a good job.” Lita says. “Also I don’t want to leave New Jersey–my old husband is working in Rutgers University and Kevin is attending college here too.”

“He’s not old. He’s the same age as you are.”

“That’s old as far as the job market is concerned.”

“What did he say about you losing your job? He must be just as upset as you are.”

“Oh, he gave me a long lecture. ‘Artificial Intelligence is the future.’ He said. He wanted me to learn C++ and computer science. Can you believe that?”

“You told me all the chemistry job is in computational chemistry and biological chemistry now. So a little computer may not be so bad.”

“Computer, at my age? Computer science is for young people. Not for people as old as I am.”

Lulu has come over to Nita’s place, helping with the resume update and the cover letter draft. However Nita’s quite dispirited. They talk and talk. Then it’s late. When Lulu gets up to leave, Nita wants to talk more and asks her to stay for the night. So she stays.

The next morning, Lulu wants to leave right after waking up, but it’s not very polite without saying goodbye. She comes downstairs. Nita’s husband Lian and son Kevin are talking in the kitchen. Nita’s obviously still sleeping–she’s a night owl, not an early bird.

“Kevin, you get up early today.” Lulu says.

“He hasn’t gone to sleep yet. He has this crazy schedule. I told him one day he’s going to mess up his stomach and liver. You know we Asians are weak in stomach and liver.” Lian says.

“The way you talk, Dad. It sounds like Asians are a special species or something. We suffer more; we are weaker; we are poorer.” Kevin says.

“We are, Kevin. That’s why we have to work harder.” Lian says.

“Dad, your hard work has caused Mom to lose her job. The smarter robots you’ve produced have replaced skilled workers like Mom, don’t you think?” Kevin says.

“Kevin, you can’t talk with me like that. I’m your Dad. You need to show your respect.” Lian says.

“I respect your diligence and your work ethic, but the better robots you’ve indefatigably produced are creating an existential crisis for human beings.” Kevin says.

“Oh, Kevin, your mom will learn computer and find another job. Stop being so dramatic.” Lian says.

“I don’t mean Mom alone. I mean your robots are making people superfluous. Read Stephen Hawking, Norm Chomsky, Thomas Piketty. When there’s mass unemployment caused by your robots, your work ethics cannot hold anymore.”

“Wait a minute, Kevin. Are you taking philosophy and economic classes? I want you to become an engineer. You hear me? I am working myself to death to pay for your tuition and I forbid you to take impractical courses.”

Lulu quietly gets up and walks out. Two minutes later, she is driving home, happy that she has escaped the escalating family drama.

For other Lulu’s stories, please click the link below:

Knowing Yourself And Others: Lulu thinks she knows her parents, until she realizes that she doesn’t.

An Afternoon With Champ: A martial arts champion falls in love with a girl from a prominent Tanasia family. The next thing he knows, he is sent to America to get a degree so that he can become more respectable in the eyes of his future in-laws.

Reverse Psychology Expert: Lulu meets a reverse psychology expert when she tries to fix her car.

16 thoughts on “Superfluity

  1. Conversations with family are always fun…

    I feel like robots are a really bad idea. Not only will they destroy the lives of a lot of workers but they will also insanely change the pay gap causing a much bigger gap between the rich and poor.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s true. This is a serious issue. It seems we are heading towards Universal Basic Income (UBI) and I can foresee a future world of millions and millions of UBI people, an army of robots, a few engineers to work as maintenance, and 0.1% of super rich controlling the world. That’s a picture we don’t want to see.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I was discussing this issue with a friend long time ago as it seem more and more robots are taking over our jobs. There is even one that can make pizza. That was when he introduced me to the idea of UBI. For what it’s worth we’ll need it.

    Which reminds me of a couple of novels if you ever you want to check out:

    1) Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, which is a story that takes place after everything is automated and nobody has to work.

    2) Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov, a science fiction mystery novel that takes place in a world in which robots have taken over most jobs and human beings are fighting labor shortages.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is true. Universal Basic Income is the new kid in the block. I will search for the pizza robot on youtube. I’ve so far watched a video about robots being bartenders. LOL.
      I haven’t never read any science fiction or watched any science fiction shows or movies. I used to have a friend who’s a “Star Trek” fanatic, but even he couldn’t convince me to watch one episode with him. LOL. I’ve always thought native English speakers like science fiction more. It’s really my observation. I don’t have the proof, just a haunch.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Science Fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea. Although I still recommend Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. He sometimes uses science fiction tropes to structure his novels, but he falls more into the realm of comedic social commentary. Everything he wrote is in the theater of the absurd.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Great recommendation. Once I tried his book, something like “Slaughter House Five” or something to that effect. However I couldn’t get into it. After about 10 pages, I gave up. This is the thing I have with science fiction–I can’t get into it. I think once I get into it, I will probably like it, but I can’t get past the initial stage. It might be my blind spot. LOL. I do have science fiction super fan friends who just read everything science fiction and love comic books too. I admire their energy. Probably because when I was young I didn’t get exposure to science fiction and it is not easy to develop a taste afterwards.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I think it also has to do with temperament as well. Some people have certain tastes when it comes to novels. It’s like how some people are into romance and others are really really into mysteries. Then there are those who reads whatever is on the NYT best selling list.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. For some reason when I read this story I thought about a the story of John Henry and the steam drill. John Henry beat the steam drill (so the story goes) and then died as a sort of folk hero. It doesn’t say what happened to the steam drill operator at the end of the day. I might write about that sometime.

    Liked by 2 people

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