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Cartoon From 1923 Weirdly Predicts 2023's AI Advancements

A century-old editorial cartoon shows that humanity's fears of being rendered obsolete by technology have been around a long time.
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Worried about losing your job to artificial intelligence?

Well, that's nothing new. 

People nowadays have been chattering a lot about ChatGPT, the advanced A.I.-powered chatbot that has been described as amazing and/or really spooky depending upon whom you talk to.

But 100 years ago, chatbots weren't a problem -- probably because they didn't exist. Back then electricity was seen by at least one person as the force that would short-circuit humanity's usefulness. 

In 1923, a cartoonist named H. T. Webster went back to the future with an editorial cartoon that appeared in the New York World newspaper and was recently sent out on Twitter.

The image depicts a cartoonist calling a friend on an old gooseneck telephone and suggesting they do "a little salmon fishing up in Labrador" while an engine labeled as a "cartoon dynamo" cranks out illustrations at the direction of ceiling-mounted machine called an "idea dynamo."  

"In the year 2023, When All Our Work is Done by Electricity," the caption reads.

Fears of Machine Take-Over 

Prophetic? Eerie? Shocking, even? No doubt, but fears of the machines taking over have been a long-running theme in science fiction circles.

Some would argue that the monster in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel "Frankenstein" was an example of artificial intelligence, albeit a really grouchy one.

In 1920, just three years before Webster's cartoon hit the stands, Czech writer Karel Capek's play "R.U.R." told the story of a factory that made artificial humans and also introduced the word "robot" to the English language.

And in 1927, Fritz Lang's film "Metropolis" included a nerve-rattling appearance by the Maschinenmensch--or "machine-human."

But, look, there's absolutely nothing to worry about.

So what if research by a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that the artificial intelligence-driven chatbot GPT-3 was able to pass the final exam for the school's MBA program, according to NBC News?

And why should we be worried when CBS News reports that an A.I. powered "robot" lawyer is scheduled to defend a client on Feb. 22 in a courtroom somewhere in America?

Well, there's always salmon fishing up in Labrador.