I came across this article a few days ago and found it very interesting, mainly because I have written about similar ideas on this blog before. I love it when I see someone of importance or someone who people listen to talking about something similar that I have said. Pretty cool.
The article talks about 4 points that Elon Musk made. As always I do not agree with all of them but in a nut shell here is what he said.
- There will be fewer jobs due to automation, and because of this governments will need to issue a universal basic income.
- Humans will meld their brains with digital intelligence.
- Driverless cars will be the norm in less than a decade.
- In the future cities will move underground.
Let’s start with the last two. I would love to have a driverless car, that would be super awesome. I am a nap guy, and would take naps while my car drove me to my destination. BUT I am very skeptical that this will be the norm in 10 years. I highly, highly doubt this will happen. I think we are just scratching the surface of this technology, then it will have to be approved by some government council, which could take years as well. Then for companies to start implementing the technology, and finally for consumers to trust it enough to actually spend money on it. He could have meant that cars in 10 years will have the capability to be driverless, but I do not think it will be the norm. So I am leaning towards no on this one.
As far as cities moving underground I am somewhat skeptical of this as well. I am also not sure of why we would do this as tunneling underground is expensive, much more so than building up. Not to mention the overall design complications that come with digging underground. Now if some natural disaster occurs or the air temperature becomes hotter or something like that then of course we could move underground. But to do so just for the sake of it, seems silly to me and the main reason is the cost. Not only that but I doubt humans would voluntarily spend an extraordinary amount of time underground just because. So again I am not sure of this one. However, I could see that maybe malls or things of that nature are built underground to save space especially in large cities. But again that is somewhat of the exception rather than the rule.
I think Musk is on to something here with humans melding our brains with digital intelligence. Although in the article I am not 100% sure what he is talking about? However, I think in the coming years and decades we will continue to merge with machines. I want to be clear that I do not mean that we will become cyborgs or anything like that, but I think we will have access to more information quicker than ever before. Perhaps we will start to see HUD in our mind’s eye through special contact lenses or other technology that has not been invented yet. Again I do not think we will merge with machines in the real physical sense. Computers and their circuitry put off a lot of heat while they are running, so to have that inside your body would cook you alive. That would not be good and that is also why I think we will not literally merger with technology. But there is always the chance that we could potentially replicate consciousness using a computer and that could be a game changer. In the end I think we will just find more ways to have access to more and more information, through wearable technology and the like. But as always we will see.
Now finally on to what Musk said that I agree with, for the most part. I have said in a previous post that if we create AI it could automate the jobs that us humans do not want to do. To an extent we could have robots create goods and handle all our services. Which would leave little for humans to do in terms of work, and I even mentioned that money and the economy would become more or less obsolete. Which is kind of what Musk is saying. I said that we could live in a somewhat utopian society where robots do all the labor and humans have more time to just live life and not worry about money or work. However, Musk says that while he agrees robots could do some of the work which should drive down prices for almost all goods, we will be out of work and would need a universal basic income to live off of. I think my example is somewhat extreme and would say that Musk might be on to something. However, I still would argue that depending on how much automation takes place that the economy would be a thing of the past and goods and services would be free, so where would be no need for money. This society that I have outlined would require a break from the norm and a radical change of our current attitudes toward life. There would be not more working to live, rather just living.
As for the universal basic income I am not sure about this. Not too long ago I read that some country is actually experimenting with this, not sure how it worked out. I would certainly love to have more money in my pocket, who wouldn’t, but the fact remains who is going to pay for it? I assume the government would be the ones paying the UBI, but I do not think that is sustainable nor ideal, and if you think about it is more in line with communism than anything else. So while I see Musk’s point I do not think it is feasible or practical. On the other hand if we do live in an automated world where most if not all labor is done by robots, who maintains them and makes new ones when they break down? I would imagine that these individuals would not do this for free, or maybe this would be a sort of service to society that certain individuals hold for a while like public office now. It could be a sort of prestigious position that is held.
Another interesting point Musk makes is how humans identify with work and how their job gives them a sense of accomplishment and purpose. While I think that is true for most, I do not have that mindset. But for Americans this would be hard for most to change that mindset, as work is how most Americans define themselves. As I said above we would need to radically change our mindsets. On one level I understand this, but at the same time I think it is kind of sad. Your work should not totally define who you are. As I have always said one thing should never define who you are. Now if you are a doctor or something that is equivalent to that, then maybe you work can define who you are. Still I think Musk may be on to something here, he also says that work gives humans a sense of purpose. If we are not working then some may not feel like they have a purpose. Again I can see this and perhaps, depending on what happens in the future, there may be more individuals that are depressed and have psychological issues. It would be tough for some to deal with this lifestyle change. If you did not have to work and all your needs and wants were met, what would you do with your time? That is a scary question for some, much like being retired without a plan of what to do next, except it will be your entire life.
In the article there is a video which I did not watch but I read where Musk also talked about in the next 50 years space travel will be easy and we will be making trips to Mars almost regularly. I do not think this will happen. We may indeed take humans to Mars but it will be a monumental task that will require lots of resources and time. If have not been back to the moon in over 60 years and Musk thinks that travel to other planets will be like taking a trip to Europe. I think not. He seems to have some radical ideas, but to some degree I think forgets the simple practically of them. But you never know what the future holds.