On Friday my passenger was waiting near one of the state government's buildings in downtown Phoenix. I try to talk to everyone, and usually people are happy to talk back. When we were almost to her destination, the passenger said that I seemed familiar. My immediate reaction was, "yeah right, we've never met." I was stunned when she asked me if I used to work at Amazon.
When I first moved back to Arizona a year ago I needed something to do, and Amazon hires just about anyone to work in their warehouses during the holiday season. I remember the older guy outside the seasonal recruiting center who'd just been hired: "I got a job? I got a job!"
It was on my second day of work that I realized the horrible truth about Amazon.com.
Seasonal Amazon.com Warehouse Associate
When we were waiting inside the warehouse for our "new employee" tour to start, I immediately realized that there was little structure to where items are stored. Whereas retail stores keep their display inventory ordered by category, Amazon's system calls for completely randomizing the warehouse. The computers keep track of where everything is.
Every warehouse has hundreds of rows of shelves with 1, 3, 5 or more levels. Each division on the shelf is called a 'bin'. There are also spaces where entire pallets of merchandise can be stored. Pallet locations only have one or two items.
There are three departments for temporary employees at the Amazon warehouses: Inbound, Outbound, and ICQA (Inventory Control / Quality Assurance).
Inbound employees take merchandise off the trucks and process the merchandise as needed (encasing in a plastic bag, etc). "Stowers" are given a cart of items and are graded on how many things they can stow in an hour. When they find a suitable location, they scan the item's and the bin's bar codes to let the computer know what they're putting where. If a similar item is already in the bin (e.g. a different size/color of a clothing item, different flavor of a given brand of gum, etc), the system rejects the attempted placement, and the human has to find another spot for the item on their cart. I didn't talk to many of the inbound employees because they had a different break/lunch schedule.
Outbound employees are responsible for filling orders. "Pickers" run around the warehouse filling their carts with stuff, and are graded with how many items they can pull off the shelves per hour. Packers pull an individual order's items off the carts and place these in boxes with barcode stickers. These are placed on a conveyor belt, where the boxes are weighed.
The computers calculate what the order is supposed to weigh and compare it to the box's actual weight. If the box does NOT weigh what it should, a human has to go through it to find what's wrong. The box is passed to an outbound employee who is allowed to think. They are given the box, the list of what it's supposed to have, and told to figure out what's wrong. The only story I heard about was the time that inbound didn't properly break a box of 6 ipods into individual packages. Someone ordered a single ipod. The picker grabbed the box of 6 ipods off the shelf and put it on their cart, and the packer put the 6 ipods in the box. The computer added up the weight of everything the customer had ordered, which was significantly less than what the box actually weighed.
After the box passes the weight inspection, the cheapest possible shipping method is calculated, a mailing label is applied, and the package is routed to the selected shipping service.
My taxi passenger and I both worked in Inventory Control / Quality Assurance. We were responsible for keeping the warehouse in order. In theory the computers keeps track of where everything is, but stuff falls off the shelves, gets misplaced, stolen, etc.
ICQA temporary employees basically count shit for their entire shift, and put the number of items in the current bin into their handheld computer. If the ICQA associate's item count matches what the inventory computer expects, the computer makes a "happy beep" and provides the next bin location that it wants counted. If the count does NOT match the expected number, the handheld computer makes an "angry beep", and the ICQA associate has to count again.
Sometimes I found the item that I missed, and other times the bin's inventory really was different than what the computer expected. If the second count was still different than was expected, the bin was labeled "defective" and the handheld computer made another angry beep. Someone else is assigned to scan everything that's actually in that bin. The system keeps track of what goes missing, and what reappears.
The end of every row has "amnesty" and "damaged" bins. When stuff falls off the shelf, or off a picker's cart, it has to go to the "amnesty" bin so that it can be returned to its proper location. ICQA associates are tasked with trying to find out where the amnesty items came from. They scan the item and the nearest bin, and the handheld computer displays the nearest locations that are supposed to have that particular item. This was my favorite task, as I got fairly good at guessing which of the bin locations were missing the item that had gone astray.
If the ICQA associate is unable to find a bin that's missing the item in a reasonable amount of time, they pick a bin, deposit the item, and tell the computer system they added an item to the bin's inventory.
ICQA is one of the better departments for temporary workers, because it allows for a certain degree of freedom. Inbound and outbound associates are graded on speed, whereas ICQA associates are graded on accuracy.
The Horrible Truth About Amazon.com
I realized the true nature of Amazon on my second day of counting shit and listening to the happy beeps and angry beeps that emitted from my handheld computer. I had been watching inbound and outbound associates scurrying around trying to "make rate", taking orders from the central computers relayed over wireless links to their hand-held computers.
The insight came in a flash: Amazon is run by SKYNET.
For the remainder of my tenure as a seasonal associate at a Phoenix Amazon.com warehouse, I made regular reference to the truth of our predicament. One of the full-time ICQA employees responded to my informal statement about 'Skynet having sent me to [location]' with an inquiry: "Skynet?" I explained that Skynet actually runs Amazon.com. He laughed and said it really was the best explanation for the inner workings of the Goliath of internet shopping.
One night another department needed a helper, and the night's ICQA manager offered my services (One of the tasks involved inspecting faux-brushed-aluminum salad oil sprayers for damage). I dropped a "Skynet" reference to my boss for the night, and she didn't get it. I asked if she'd ever seen the documentary Terminator 2, staring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
She had not, so I gave a brief summary: Skynet is the computer program that humans put in charge of the United States' national defenses. Skynet became self-aware, decided the humans were a threat to its existence, and launched our nuclear missiles against us. I stated that our employer was clearly run by this autonomous menance to humanity.
She replied with "but there's a human behind everything!" I didn't say any more - some people just can't handle the truth.
The events portrayed in the Terminator and Terminator 2 documentaries took place in a different time stream, and the war with the Machines has taken a different path than was previously documented.
Release from service to the Machines
Skynet started laying people off before Christmas. Inbound employees were the first to be let go, and subpar outbound employees soon followed.
The Machines kept me around for most of January to help with a "wall-to-wall" inventory. When the inventory was almost complete, they called the four remaining temporary workers from my shift into a little room. I knew what my coworkers were thinking by the expression on their faces: "oh no we're getting laid off."
I was gleeful: "oh thank god I'm getting laid off!" I had entertained myself by making lists of things that I didn't know I could buy and flipping open interesting books (a forbidden activity), but counting shit was getting old and I was tired of seeing the same dozen people every night.
Further Evidence of the Machines' Control of Amazon
Last week this news story hit the wires: The CIA and Jeff Bezos Bet on Quantum Computing. Jeff Bezos is, of course, "the founder and CEO" of Amazon.com. Amazon is also buying one of Texas Instrument's chip divisions. What does a warehouse company need to design chips for, if not Terminator R&D?
Implications of Skynet's Rule
When I saw the opinion piece in the Arizona Republic, At his core, Romney is a cyborg, I initially thought it confirmation of the extent of Skynet's influence on human affairs, especially at the top tier of national politics.
But then I got to thinking about our current president. What if Barack Obama is a Terminator? Consider the Evidence:
- Obama came out of nowhere to become a senator, then president. Does anyone remember him from his college days? After the Bush/Gore debacle, Skynet was put in charge of counting votes. This was an easy way to hide the electioneering behind Terminator-Obama's election.
- The drone war against Pakistan allows Skynet to fully develop its line of Hunter-Killer autonomous war machines
- Terminator-Obama has done nothing to stem Skynet's looting
of the economy via high-frequency trading
- Birth control
is made with xeno-hormones, and contributes to the hysterectomy epidemic that my taxi passengers have hinted at. Obamacare's birth
control mandate is another way for Skynet to loot the economy because
it ignores the findings of science in favor of much more profitable
prescriptions for the pharmaceutical industry.
- (I'm sure there are more examples. Please comment if you are
aware of more evidence of Mr. Obama's true nature)
A good explanation for George W. Bush is that he was actually a T-800, or maybe a simple T-600. Dick Cheney really was a cyborg during his time in office - his power cells were replaced in a 2007 "pacemaker surgery".
Barack Obama is clearly a more refined terminator, but I'm not sure if he's a T-850, T-888, T-900, T-1000, or a T-X. Please vote in the poll and comment with your reasoning to help me figure out which terminator series Barack Obama represents.
The Rest of Congress
Senators and Representatives seem to eventually be replaced with Terminators - I estimate that the process takes about 6 years. This explains politician's longevity in office: humans would rapidly tire of the futility of going nowhere, year-after-year.
The Hope Represented by Mitt Romney?
If Mitt Romney is indeed a cyborg, perhaps he is a hybrid. Many have already pointed out that he has mastered the trait of being a political chameleon. It seems to me that his flips on his abortion position, for example, is based on the political climate he has to operate in. You can't get to the general election if you don't pander to both the media and your party's true believers.
The question I hope you all can help me out with is... who does Cyborg Romney serve?
The Two Other Passengers...
Temporary employees go forever, until they get burned out
There is a mental health center on the west side that has a constant stream of passengers going home. As far as I can determine, this is a "Hotel California" sort of place, where you can "check out any time you like, but you can never leave", as the patients never actually get better. I asked my last passenger how often he goes to the "recovery center" - every day, and some days he takes a second trip somewhere else. That's at least $500/week in taxi fares - not so good for the government's finances, but it's "trickle-up economics" for us taxi drivers.
Voucher fares usually aren't as interesting as normal fares. My next passenger was a young woman also in south Phoenix. She was outside waiting, and it wasn't obvious where she was coming from. Eventually I determined that she had a cosmetology license, and is taking business classes at the community college. She offered that she was going home from her job at the Gap warehouse. I offered that I used to work at Amazon before I was drawn to Taxi driving, and shared my relief of getting laid off. She said that she too used to work at amazon, and finally got out a month ago. Her 'seasonal' position extended for almost a year, probably with a constant anxiety of never knowing if they'd 'terminate' her for the slightest infraction.
Skynets that serve humanity
On Saturday I was sent to pick up Skylar (really), a boy whose insurance was paying to send him to an appointment/event a few miles away. The father asked if I saved my receipts to get reimbursed for his son's transportation. I gestured to the computer attached to the dashboard, and said that 'Skynet' keeps track of all my insurance-paid trips for me.
He laughed, and I had to explain: the cab company's computer system is benevolent, and is the drivers' and passengers' humble servant (except for when it crashes). "But let me tell you about the other Skynet, which is humanity's mortal enemy. I used to work for Amazon, and ..."
The father laughed again, and instantly understood. He too had worked for Amazon during the previous peak season, until he came down with the flu. They said he could continue his employment with a doctor's note to 'excuse' the points he'd accumulate during his sick leave. My passenger's father asked, "are you going to pay for that?", then "I guess I'm not going to work for you anymore."
Who does Technology really serve?
Computers can be useful tools that serve humanity, but they are also agents in the Machine's thousand-year-old effort to enslave the majority of the human race. Hopefully by exposing "Skynet's" true ambitions our species can finally find the peace and the promise that is our birthright.
Unless Gary Johnson, the (possible) Black Swann Candidate, finds a message that resonates with voters, we're stuck with one of the two dominant parties' candidates. Regardless of whether the current president is an actual terminator or just a Miles Dyson figure who does not appreciate the consequences of his actions, Barack Obama clearly serves the Machine.
I have a faint hope that perhaps Romney was sent back by the resistance to aid humanity. Is Mitt Romney a political Gladiator who only says whatever he needs to say to trick billionaires into supporting him? Will he flip on the plutocracy as soon as he gets elected? While Mitt Romney could be just another Infiltrator, he could also be our second-best hope.
(originally posted to kuro5hin.org on October 18, 2012 at 08:29:16 AM EST)