Eventually robots ( and computers) will become cheap enough and good
enough to do most of the jobs that exist now.
This may happen soon, or in decades. But it will happen.
What do people think will happen then ?
Will it be a utopia, with food for plenty and free time for most ?
Will other jobs be created that do not exist now, and most people
still need to be employed ?
( if so, will these jobs be necessary? )
Will most people be jobless and dependent on subsidized food ? Handed
out by governments and NPO's ?
If most people are jobless what happens to the tax base ?
If there is no tax base, what happens to the governments and NPO's ?
It seems complex, perhaps a mixture of all above ?
Will technology still be in the hands of most people: with unlimited
and exciting advances ?
Will the powerful keep all control of robots and technology limited ?
to keep social control and power ?
or to prevent unrest and social breakdown ?
Will most people stay where they are living at ?
or, , in times of crises, will people do mass movements in search of
food or work ?
Will there ever be refugee camps if the food supply is effected by
having no tax base and the farmers no one to sell food to ?
Again, all of this could happen too, both good and bad, in complex
Will a slow introduction of capable robots keep society from going
through some bad times. Or does it matter ?
I would like people to talk to me about this, because I have been
This is an ancient, constantly-debated question. It's what most people
reckoned in the early days of mechanisation and robotics, but while it may
happen some day, it'll require a fundamental change to society first -
there'll probably be some kind of revolution or something if that's the
case. The problem is, the society we live in requires work to exist in
order to function correctly, a constant amount of work in fact, and you get
big problems like depressions and stuff otherwise.
For an incredibly trivial, heavily simplified example - a certain number of
people are needed to farm enough food to feed themselves and everyone else,
and they are each paid a certain amount for that. At the same time, others
work in all the other industries for another wage, and let us assume
everyone's wage is enough to pay for their fraction of the food produced and
any other manufactured goods they need, and everything's more or less ok and
everyone can afford just the right amount of stuff.
Now let us say someone invents a labour-saving machine that reduces the
number of people required to produce enough food for the whole society by a
factor of 10. This means food becomes 10 times cheaper, but in order to
make it so 90% of the farming workforce must be laid off - they can now no
longer afford anything, even the now-cheaper food, unless they can
immediately get jobs somewhere else, which they can't get because everywhere
else is unchanged and perfectly balanced without them. The same thing
happens every time a technological or manufacturing innovation is made, to
In practice whenever this happens the system eventually evens itself out,
whether by government intervention to create jobs for the increasing numbers
of unemployed people (I believe the Hoover Dam is a famous example of this),
wars (I gather these are brilliant for improving employment in many cases),
independent start-ups taking advantage of cheap labour because of people's
desperation for any job, no matter how poorly paid, etc etc, but the whole
process is a haphazard mess, with no overall system to cope with changes
caused by any kind of innovation, brilliant and desirable though such
innovations undeniably are once the system has had time to adjust for them.
One theoretically possible (but totally impractical and undoubtedly
unpopular) solution would require centralised control for employment,
determining in real-time how much work actually needs to be done to keep
society working and allocating employment accordingly (I think the Soviet
system had something like this, but I'd have to read up to make sure) -
rather than having a permanent occupation (something that hardly seems to
exist these days anyway!), everyone with the necessary skills could be
allocated just enough work to make up their fair share of what needs to be
done overall (anything from an 8 hour day down to something like half an
hour a day, in theory, although logistical impossibility, inefficiencies
caused by shift-changing every 1/2 hour, and people's disinclination to
follow instructions from the government put paid to this one, though). The
other thing is, as things become ever easier to manufacture or produce,
their "value" in terms of work done decreases, and to this the current,
universal system of tokenised currency has no direct or reliable method of
reacting - paying someone in terms of their percentage contributed to how
much work actually needs to be done might work better (again, mathematically
workable but in reality virtually impossible), and using said percentage to
determine how much product they are entitled to.
The crucial advantage of this system over current capitalist ones is that,
were it to work correctly (which it undoubtedly wouldn't), it would pave the
way for a relatively painless transition to the roboticist's dream, the
utopian society where no work at all would be required of human beings.
Despite the apparent madness of what I have just described, the interesting
thing is it's actually remarkably similar to the current western capitalist
society in many ways - for example, inflation and all that
barely-comprehensible nonsense that goes on in stock markets and stuff, in
short the variation in value of tokenised currency, is in effect a basically
subconscious attempt by the system to behave like the
percentage-of-work-done system described above. The entire, messy system
adjusts the value of the very metal discs you have in your pocket to
represent your earned fraction of everything manufactured to date, as
manufacturing processes get easier, etc, though obviously it has its flaws,
causing disasters such as the German hyperinflation after the first world
war, among other things. A central, reliable computer program adjusting
everything would be infinitely better than the current system, if only you
could get people to have faith in it (impossible)...at present, if anything
changes at all in the economy, you basically rely on countless other human
beings, with their own interests at heart, adjusting many interlinked
systems that they barely understand, in order to subconsciously adjust the
perceived value of your own savings so that you can still afford the same
amount of food today as you could were you to have bought it yesterday.
Obviously what I have described is naive, simplistic and basically daft, but
I should stress it is only to illustrate the problems and some of the
aspects a workable solution would need to have. I'm also extraordinarily
bored and basically thinking aloud with my brain wandering, as I try yet
again to download massive hardware drivers with a poxy modem :-( An actual
intelligent discussion of the problem would require the strenuous effort of
minds infinitely greater than mine, dealing with the very philosophical
meaning of concepts such as "work", "value", "money" and "price", among many
One thing I am convinced of, however, is the present system of tokenised
currency, in use in pretty much every society of human beings on the planet,
is horribly flawed, dangerous and unpredictable, especially during and
immediately after any change at all to a country's economy, whether through
political change, technological innovation or anything else, and a better
system must be found sooner or later - I'm basically ignorant of the subject
of economics, but a cursory glance at almost any textbook will probably find
predictions of ever increasing booms followed by depressions, not generally
good for society. There are certain things one can do to dampen or avert
depressions - as an engineer who strives for perfection I find planned
obsolescence is a particularly loathsome one, where a manufacturer of a
product ensures their products will become obsolete or break down in a
certain amount of time, so there will always be demand for their products
and keeping them in business - Microsoft appear to have this one down to an
Here's a good one for you (not one of my own - I forget where I heard it,
I'm afraid) - if there was a pound coin on the surface of the moon, would
there be money on the moon?
OK, enough incoherent ramblings, I'll go do something productive now.
It will take a while ...
Well, is not about the hardware as much as it's about the "software" ... for
now these machines are nothing but an extension of ourselves.
To put this in different words - a robot is more sophisticated tool(take an
electronic hammer for example:). The real difference will be made
when artificial intelligence will be fully understood - as for now we wonder
at it and get intrigued by it the same way stoneage people wondered at fire
thousands of years ago. It seems so close yet we cannot get good grip of it
because we don't know enough about ourselves as yet and this most of the
time somes in conflict with
our own image.
Our own preconceptions is a show stopper, fear and lack of understanding of
our selves or life in general. We need first to evolve in this matter to be
able to either accept or create "machines" which can do what we do.
Understanding AI and therefore life will change dramatically our perspective
and understanding. We will then value things differently and then I presume
this kind of discussion will be in a different note.
Then, whenever that will be, majority of humans will already realize that
our big "A" as a race is intelligence
or even more, creativity. So, I see people in future working more with their
brain and using robots as their "muscle".
Intelligence, creativity and therefore technology is what makes the
difference between caveman and what we are now. Else we share the same
"animal" values as any mammal on this planet.
There are so many questions to answer, so many worlds to explore and so many
things yet to discover - and that is our future. To do this we need to
understand and overcome our natural limitations.
Food - :) a basic need for every living been - yet still a major problem in
this world where a majority of humans will spent most of their live just to
ensure this. An intelligent race should not worry of primary needs as this
You don't want free time - doing nothing is like being dead. The beauty of
or live is that we can creatively interact with our environment.
Yes. Jobs where people use their brain and creativity. I think then natural
selection will be done slightly different then now is.
There is so much that can be done in this world/universe - that think we
will never manage to cover it all or get bored. So there will jobs/work to
be done forever. Money as an exchange will disappear. Most of things will be
"free" - an exchange for you being part of society and perform various
tasks. There will be different criteria to evaluate fitness of individuals
for various tasks. And the reward concept will be different as well.
Jobless - it's a wrong concept. So long you are part of a society and you
interact with it you will provide feedback and therefore work in away or
with that society. Tax as much as money it's a virtual concept - in the end
what it matters is what you do with that money. So to speak the
materialization of the money is what we are after in the end. Looking in
what tax money go now(or should go), mainly to support the infrastructure of
society, and given that you have robots
and energy "cheap" then tax concept will have to be reviewed - maybe that
tax will be more the object rather then a bunch of cash which we throw at
the government to waste.
Governments will exist. There is always a need for a brain - and that is
what the governments in the future will be as opposed to what they are now.
As people become more educated and use their brain more often the demand for
politicians will be based on what that politician can do rather then the way
it look, smile or speak.
It's "complex" in the way that technology is not something different but, as
I said before an extension of ourselves. If you don't know to use a drill
you might very well get hurt.
There is a catch - as technology becomes more available and so the power of
every individual. In future anyone will have to power to destroy the world
if they want to. Then all depends on how evolved we are as a species at that
time, on our understanding of life's values - else our race will fail.
For example if that technology becomes available tomorrow to everyone in
this world - there is little chance that we will live another day.
In a way technology should becomes available at the right time - no sooner
or latter. The first step is to make sure that there are no people left in
the world with their basic human rights revoked, no dictators , people are
not killing each other, no human without education and basic needs
Else, we all take a risk - if a hundred years ago we didn't care what
happens on the other side of the world, today, thanks to technology people
can move easy anywhere and communicate even easier - which puts us all in
the same big boat, a boat which will sink us all if anywhere cracks.
Work will be done for everywhere - anywhere. Already people are working more
from home(at least in informational related jobs) there is no need to be in
a specific place.
No refugee will exist.
I don't think technology will reach that level of evolution if we don't
Else we will destroy ourselves at the very beginning and never get to enjoy
Well, I think the speed at which technology evolves or implemented is not
something which can really be controlled.
Take internet - an idea will spread at speed of light in every corner of
In a different perspective, the sole existence of a nuclear bomb isn't not
the real issue. Whoever is ready to press the button is.
Now, there is a reason (cause/effect) in everything - people don't kill
themselves (they don't take the decision to destroy their lives) for
So, what we want to do first is making sure people are educated, understand
and respect life before a powerful technology becomes available.
At least this is my humble opinion on this subject.
I wouldn't necessarily say that the replacement for human labor will
be electro-mechanical computer controlled andrioids. I know a little
about robotics, and even less about biotech; but my guess is that a
general purpose human clone will be on the market before a mechanical
android. What may start as a source for transplant organs will
eventually suscumb to market pressure and wind up pushing my lawn
- James B
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