I have briefly spoken about this in another post a while back, albeit I was somewhat poking fun at the idea. Even though I briefly spoke about it, there are a few things that didn’t quite come to mind when making my arguments. So let’s get started.
So the original argument is that with the ever advancing technology robots, AI, or some combination of the two will eventually take all the jobs that we currently have. Following that logic this has happened before when the Industrial Revolution forced many manual laborers out of work. There were many who were against this technological advancement called Luddites. I think in some small horde there are still these people out there that still have these same beliefs. While this is quite silly, I am not here to judge.
However, at the same time the advancement in technology opened up another sector of the job market. This article proposes 5 points that could possibly happen during the “second robot age.” I think that “second age” is what could potentially happen in the near future. The “first robot age” I think would have been around the 80’s or so when robots were used in manufacturing, especially automobile manufacturing. These robots took quite a bit of the manual labor out of this process, which coincidently put many people out of a job. Still there were jobs available and this advancement in technology even opened another job sector, robotics and software development just to name a few. These are more specialized sectors, but still the advancement in one job sector potentially opens another. Neil DeGrasse Tyson seems to second my sentiment on this idea.
Back to the article, for the most part I think most of the points mentioned make sense, other than the fact that robots would not care for nature, which means nature would be in trouble. I understand the logic, but I also do not think any robot species would just outright hate and want to destroy nature in general. This seems somewhat irrelevant to me. Although I do think robots would be indifferent toward nature, I do not think that would necessarily be a bad thing. The robots, if intelligent, would run on solar power, the most abundant and easily available energy source on the planet. They would want to create large solar farms, but I do not know how this would affect nature. I would assume they would figure out how to maximize their solar stores. I am sure they would find out where on the planet receives the most sunlight, which is on some island in Canada. So I don’t think that would destroy the nature or ecosystem on the island. I do not think the AI or robots would clear cut the rain forest, of pave over a swamp where a very rare species lives, there would have to be something beneficial to do that. I am not sure what advantage, if any, this would have for the robots. Plus you have to think about the energy expended to take on such a project, so for that reason any project the AI/robots undertook would have to have some sort of benefit. As you can tell I do not think the robots would want to destroy everything scenario.
So let’s make a few assumptions before we discuss this next article. Let’s assume that the “second robot age” does come to pass and they are so good at basically everything that they take almost every job except a very few highly, technical highly specialized jobs out there. This poses a problem for a few different reasons. The obvious is that the robots are taking the jobs, but there should also be some other new jobs created that were not accounted for. For the sake of argument let’s say that regardless of the new jobs the majority of people will be unemployed.
In case you missed the economic down turn that took place a few years back, unemployment is not a good thing. That then begs the question, what do you do if you are basically permanently out of work, and how do you pay for well, anything? So how do you eat, raise a family? This certainly paints a bleak outlook for the “second robot age,” should it come to pass.
I am of the sentiment that if, and that is a major if, this does happen it will take many years and quite some time for this to happen. My point is that it will not happen overnight, and the transition should be slow. If that is the case I would not be too worried, and even if I am being pessimistic I do not think it is possible for this transition to happen quickly. I think it will possibly take decades at the quickest. The slower the transition the better for us and the job market. A big question for this transition, who is making the robots? This could open up some new manufacturing jobs, again that humans would and or could fill. So I still just cannot see even the bleakest and most drastic outcome happening, and happening fast. Based on my expert opinion, don’t believe everything you read on the internet about robots taking your jobs.
With that being said, if the average citizen does not have a way to make money because there are no jobs available, what happens to the economy? Well there is a sentiment that the government or whoever would give everyone a universal income. This has been experimented with in a handful of countries around the world. This is basically giving people money so they can live, because they don’t have jobs, because all the robots took their jobs. So how the hell would this work? Giving people free money does not seem like a good idea.
I think this situation would be somewhat of an anomaly. Look, there is a ton of arguments out there about giving people unemployment benefits when they do not have a job. Some say job seekers should be given longer benefits, while others say they should be shorter. The logic being that if you extend the benefits the person will just stay unemployed longer and just collect the money. While shortening the benefits would make them get a job, having no money would force them to get a job. The logic works both ways. But if robots have taken over all the jobs then this logic would not apply or even hold water, as there would be no jobs to return to.
So what is the economy going to look like in this world? Another question, what would people do with all their time? Would money become obsolete or have basically no purpose? Could we build a society where robots do everything from manufacturing any and every product we need, to farming crops for food, to mining resources, basically leaving us to just sit back and relax. This is basically some sort of global retirement dystopian world. This article discusses more of the potential economic impact of robots taking over all the jobs.
They could potentially astronomically increase the economic output in just a few short years. Robots could work around the clock doing all the jobs that maintain our society. This sounds great, but again what would we do in the meantime? How would a person find a meaningful life without any sort of work? I am not saying that work is the reason for being, but I think it certainly plays a rather large part in the conversation. Would humans just always be looking for the next hobby to get involved in, or just trying to find something to pass the time until we take our final breath. On some level it sounds somewhat interesting, but at the same time it sounds miserable too. Could you for the rest of your life find something to do that would hold your interest or keep you occupied? I am sure most people would say a resounding “Yes” to that question, but I am not sure that that “Yes” will have been well thought out.
If you find yourself cursing your job and wishing you were somewhere else doing whatever, something to think about is how long before your answer to the above question will start to bore you. How long before you are wishing you were back at work or just having something to do? Having absolutely nothing to do for the rest of your life in my opinion could be a very dangerous thing. It is human nature to always want more, but sometimes we don’t realize how lucky we have it. Maybe the grass is not greener on the other side.