WEST WARWICK, R.I.
No New Year’s resolutions this year. Nary a one. Instead I am throwing myself, body and soul, into campaigns -- campaigns designed to halt the slide in civilized life.
Here are my campaigns:
1. Rescue the necktie: More and more men are going around naked about the throat but wearing a pocket square. Now I love pocket squares, very useful if you should meet one of those famous actresses who is always in tears. Whip it out, get it soaked and presto! It goes on eBay.
The thing is that neckties are disappearing. Only businessmen on the perp walk and some politicians wear them. Even former President Barack Obama appears to have abandoned them almost entirely -- a serious regression.
Ties are important. They conceal protruding Adam’s apples, turkey necks and dirty shirt fronts. Also, they are used to wipe eyeglasses and to twirl when listening to people who go on and on.
2. I am pushing to get airline executives to ride “basic coach” on at least one 10-hour flight. They will learn that they are the agents of physical cruelty and weird perversity.
They have ordained travel without luggage because the fees for luggage on “basic” are so high you would be paying for another class of service if you take a suitcase.
The airline bosses should be squeezed into the amazing shrinking toilets (too small for grownups); they should have their knees in their faces and have to sit up as straight as a drill sergeant. They should then try to stand up after hours of contortion.
3. I want a punitive tax for banks who will not speak to you but will put you through hours of automated telephone hell, in the hope that you will give up and leave them alone (with your money and their fees with which they steal that money).
4. Hedge funds that shred the lives of workers and deny customer service in the name of “shareholder value” should be prosecuted for hate speech for those words. “Shareholder value” can be roughly translated as “We’re going to screw you.” How about “customer value” or a little “social value”?
You have been on the line for hours and are begging the artificial-intelligence recording to let you hear a live human voice, even if it is originating from a faraway country and its owner is speaking English as a third language. The machine says, “Do you want to hear the main menu again?” You slide to the floor, defeated, crazed and suicidal.
I want it to be a federal crime to have a machine with a woman’s voice. They are cursed routinely with foul expletives that even a machine should not have to hear, let alone one that thinks it is a woman. #MeToo should get on this one and demand that the programmer gets the sack without pension.
5. I will be working for honesty from automated systems. I do not want my computer to “welcome” me when I turn it on. I believe that it does not care, that it is not sincere and that it is, to this point in time, inanimate and has no feelings. Therefore, when machines say things like “Have a nice day,” even “thank you,” they are lying.
This will change as artificial intelligence is given artificial emotions and machines talk to us in ways so crafty we will not know whether it is a machine or a person. We may not even know if the damned thing has captured the affections of our loved ones. Some states still have an “alienation of affections” common law tort that allows the thwarted lover to sue for stolen love.
Already, you may have a good case for filing a lawsuit against Facebook for running off with your children. Albeit in plain sight.
Happy New Year.
Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org and he’s based in Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.