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If AI Is So Great, Why Is Managing the Digital Realm Eating Us Alive?

March 1, 2024

The financial analysts gloating over the prospect of higher corporate profits resulting from firing workers overlook the collapse of customer satisfaction, productivity and leisure.


If AI is so great, why are we all wasting so much precious, irreplaceable time deleting spam, unsubscribing from junk email and dealing with multiplying layers of digital incompetence? This is called shadow work: work we perform that isn't paid or even counted as "work," though it eats up our time and energy, leaving us less leisure and more frayed.

Work that once was performed by the companies and agencies offering these services has been offloaded onto the customer. The customer must now delete endless spam, unsubscribe from endless junk emails, deal with security breaches, navigate incompetent third-party providers, fill out endless forms relating to privacy--a Kafkaesque bit of humor, given that our data is constantly plundered by hackers--and find their efforts to get anything fixed in the digital realm foiled by AI-chatbots and phone apps.

The horror stories are becoming ever more Kafkaesque. To cite one recent example from a reader, the process of qualifying as a professional healthcare provider for payment from Medicare was once a relatively straightforward submission of documents. Now it has been offloaded to a third-party provider--keepers of the inner circle of Digital Hell--which charges $3,000 for providing a truly Kafkaesque labyrinth of frustrating incompetence.

Recall that in Kafka's final novel, The Castle, the castle is buzzing 24/7 with office workers who are too busy to answer the phone: the work is endless yet nothing gets done.

I recounted a few of my own experiences with AI-digital incompetence in Digital Service Dumpster Fires and Shadow Work:

Digital services--the foundation of the digital economy--are dumpster fires we're supposed to put out ourselves. The services are broken, dysfunctional rubbish, and yet somehow the agencies or corporations that are responsible for the endless dumpster fires of their digital interfaces have shifted the burdens of this incompetence onto the consumer / customer, who is supposed to put the fire out ourselves and make do with the smoldering sludge at the bottom of the dumpster.

The financial analysts gloating over the prospect of higher corporate profits resulting from firing workers overlook the collapse of customer satisfaction, productivity and leisure. AI is creating additional layers of frustrating, time-sink shadow work, and the only possible conclusion is that AI--as instantiated by corporations and public agencies--is innately incompetent. The entire system of digital services is a wretched mess of incompetence and shadow work dumped on a public corralled by monopolies and cartels and a compliance-obsessed bureaucracy of state/federal agencies.

Cory Doctorow summarized the situation rather neatly: "One of the truest things I know about AI is: 'we're nowhere near a place where bots can steal your job, we're certainly at the point where your boss can be suckered into firing you and replacing you with a bot that fails at doing your job.'"



One wonders what we're paying for via taxes, products and services, when we end up having to do so much of the work ourselves, at the cost of our productivity, leisure and mental health.



New podcast Vision Series: AI Job Challenges and Trends (34:54 min)





My recent books:

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases originated via links to Amazon products on this site.

Self-Reliance in the 21st Century print $18, (Kindle $8.95, audiobook $13.08 (96 pages, 2022) Read the first chapter for free (PDF)

The Asian Heroine Who Seduced Me (Novel) print $10.95, Kindle $6.95 Read an excerpt for free (PDF)

When You Can't Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook; audiobook Read the first section for free (PDF)

Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States (Kindle $9.95, print $24, audiobook) Read Chapter One for free (PDF).

A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Will You Be Richer or Poorer?: Profit, Power, and AI in a Traumatized World
(Kindle $5, print $10, audiobook) Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake (Novel) $4.95 Kindle, $10.95 print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 Kindle, $15 print)
Read the first section for free


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Self-Reliance in the 21st Century print $18, (Kindle $8.95, audiobook $13.08 (96 pages, 2022) Read the first chapter for free (PDF)


When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote his famous essay Self-Reliance in 1841, the economy was localized and households supplied many of their own essentials. In our hyper-globalized economy, we re dependent on distant sources for our essentials.

Emerson defined self-reliance as being our best selves thinking for ourselves rather than following the conventional path. Self-reliance in the 21st century means reducing our dependency on fragile supply chains and becoming producers as well as consumers.

Self-reliance is often confused with self-sufficiency--the equivalent of Thoreau s a cabin on Walden Pond. But self-reliance in the 21st century isn t about piling up money or a cabin in the woods; it s about humanity's most successful innovation: cooperating with trustworthy others in productive networks.

The book details the essential mindset of self-reliance and 18 nuts and bolts principles of self-reliance in the 21st century.

Read excerpts for free

Podcast with Richard Bonugli: Self Reliance in the 21st Century (43 min)



When You Can't Go On: Burnout, Reckoning and Renewal ( $18 print, $8.95 Kindle ebook; audiobook)

When I burned out, what I wanted but could not find was a practical guide by someone who had experienced burnout themselves. None of the material I found spoke to what I was experiencing or to my sense that our economy is now optimized to burn people out.

I decided to write the guide I wanted but could not find. This is my experience of burnout, reckoning and renewal.

This book is my account of what helped me. The intended audience is other burnouts and those who want to better understand the experience of burnout.

Burnout is a life-changing experience in a good way, as absurd as that may sound to those in the depths of burnout. To paraphrase Samuel Beckett: I can't go on but I must go on. There is a way forward.

Read the first section for free (PDF).         The Introduction

The Epidemic Nobody Talks About: Burnout



Global Crisis, National Renewal: A (Revolutionary) Grand Strategy for the United States ( $22.50 print, $9.95 Kindle ebook, audiobook)

Nations that embrace Degrowth and social cohesion will survive. Those that cling to "waste is growth" economies and destabilizing extremes of inequality will perish.

The threats to the republic are unprecedented, and conventional responses are an accelerant of collapse: the status quo is now the problem rather than the solution.

We have an opportunity to redraw America s Grand Strategy from the ground up. Should we fail to do so, the United States will fail, along with all the other nation-states that are incapable of grasping degrowth and social unity as solutions.

This revolutionary Grand Strategy will be the deciding factor between nation-states that fail and the few (if any) that will not just survive but actually thrive.

Read Chapter One for free (PDF).         Read the Introduction

Podcast discussing the book: A Grand Strategy to Address the Global Crisis (54 min., with Richard Bonugli)



Recent entries:

If AI Is So Great, Why Is Managing the Digital Realm Eating Us Alive? March 1, 2024

Who Error-Corrects AI? February 28, 2024

Rates, Risk and Debt: The Unavoidable Reckoning Ahead February 26, 2024

How the Economy Changed: There's No Bargains Left Anywhere February 23, 2024

The Pitfalls of Central Planning February 21, 2024

Finding, Creating (and Keeping) a Job in the Era of AI February 19, 2024

The U.S. Housing Market: Rent-Serfs and Artificial Scarcity February 16, 2024

Digital Service Dumpster Fires and Shadow Work February 14, 2024

The "Phantom Legion" Problem February 12, 2024

Household Belt-Tightening: Will the Trickle Become a Flood? February 8, 2024

Irony Alert: "Outlawing" Recession Has Made a Monster Recession Inevitable February 7, 2024

The International City Model: Freedom Is the Solution, Coercion Is the Problem February 5, 2024

Inflation Hits Us All, Even Of Two Minds February 1, 2024


January 2024 entries         February 2024 entries

2023 archives         Archives 2005-2023







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Extra-Special Bonus Aphorisms:

"There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity."
(Douglas MacArthur)

"We are what we repeatedly do." (Aristotle)

"Do the thing and you shall have the power." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." (E.F. Schumacher, via Tom R.)

"He who will not risk cannot win." (John Paul Jones)

"When we drink coffee, ideas march in like the army." (Honore de Balzac)

"Progress is not possible without deviation." (Frank Zappa, via Richard Metzger)

"Victory favors those who take pains." (amat victoria curam)

"The man who has a garden and a library has everything." (Cicero, via Lee Bentley)

"A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts." (CHS)

"Do you know what amazes me more than anything else? The impotence of force to organize anything." (Napoleon Bonaparte)

"The way of the Tao is reversal" Or "Reversal is the movement of Tao." (Lao Tzu)

"Chance favours the prepared mind." (Louis Pasteur)

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." (Winston Churchill)

"Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasures." (Rumi)

"The realm of gratitude is boundless." (CHS, 11/25/15)

"History doesn't have a reverse gear." (CHS, 12/22/15)

Smith's Law of Conservation of Risk: Every sustained action has more than one consequence. Some consequences will appear positive for a time before revealing their destructive nature. Some consequences will be intended, some will not. Some will be foreseeable, some will not. Some will be controllable, some will not. Those that are unforeseen and uncontrollable will trigger waves of other unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences. (July 8, 2014)(thanks to Lew G. for retitling the idea.)

Smith's Neofeudalism Principle #1: If the citizenry cannot replace a kleptocratic authoritarian government and/or limit the power of the financial Aristocracy at the ballot box, the nation is a democracy in name only.

The Smith Corollary to Metcalfe's Law (The Network Effect): the value of the network is created not just by the number of connected devices/users but by the value of the information and knowledge shared by users in sub-networks and in the entire network. (CHS, 4/6/16)

My Credo of Liberation: I no longer care if the power centers of our society--the distant, fortified castles of our financial feudal system--are changed by my actions, for I am liberated by the act of resistance. I am no longer complicit in perpetuating fraudulent feudalism and the pathology of concentrated power. I no longer covet signifiers of membership in the Upper Caste that serves the plutocracy. I am liberated from self-destructive consumerist-State financialization and the delusion that debt servitude and obedience to sociopathological Elites serve my self-interests. (Thank you, Klaus-Peter L., for reminding me)

"We've become a culture of excuses rather than solutions: solutions always require sustained effort and discipline." (CHS 4/9/16)

"Fraud as a way of life caters an extravagant banquet of consequences." (CHS 4/14/16)

"Creativity = problem solving = value creation." (CHS 6/4/16)

"Truth is powerful because it is the core dynamic of solving problems." (CHS 7/21/17)

"We live in a system of human emotions that masquerades as a science (economics)." (CHS 1/1/18)

"Always remember, your focus determines your reality." (George Lucas)

"Diversity is for poor people. Sameness is for the successful." (GFB)

"When power dissipates suddenly, it dissipates completely." (CHS 7/14/19)

"Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves." (Henry David Thoreau)

"Markets cannot price in the value of non-monetized natural assets such as diverse ecosystems." (CHS 7/14/19)

"Magical thinking isn't optimism, it is folly." CHS 1/3/22)

"Tune in (to degrowth), drop out (of hyper-consumerism and debt-serfdom) and turn on (to self-reliance and relocalizing capital and agency)." (CHS 1/5/22)

"The path to everything you desire starts here: like yourself as you are right now." (CHS 11/20/22)

"There are only two signals: how many essentials you produce and share and if you're consuming less with better results. Everything else is noise." (CHS 12/17/22)

"Liberation is no longer needing any confirmation or feedback from others or the world for one's sense of self. Wealth, fame, recognition, admiration, praise, prestige, approval, sainthood, martyrdom, success: none are needed, none are desired." (CHS 12/26/22)

"When fame, wealth, prestige, status and glory are out of reach, you're free to pursue other more valuable things." (CHS 2/6/22)

"It is the sacred duty of every activist who seeks to better their community to grow and share as much life-giving food as is humanly possible." (CHS 6/15/23)

click here for more Extra-Special Bonus Aphorisms.





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