The use of robots is both amazing and scary. Here’s a look at a fleet of robots used in an Amazon.com warehouse to move products to men and women who pack the orders.
The technology is amazing–and it’s no longer several decades into the future.
But as “labor-saving” devices, robots are also scary. I.e., every bit of “labor” that’s “saved” represents another man or woman who no longer has a job. Robots may be great for corporate profits, but they’re terrible for employment rates.
As we have more and more robots, we’ll also have more and more unemployed. As society becomes increasingly technological, more and more people (especially those with low IQs and/or poor educations) are going to become permanently unemployable.
What will we do with the rising numbers of unemployed and unemployable?
I see three possibilities:
1. Kill them (or at least neuter them).
If we don’t eliminate the unemployable, they will breed, breed, breed. Mostly, their children will also be unemployable. If the breeding lasts long enough, the nation will be overrun with people who are so unemployable that they are little more than “parasites” or, (as Henry Kissinger once remarked) “useless eaters”–and “useless breeders,” too.
2. Ignore them.
If they’re too dumb or lazy to get a job, screw ’em, right? But if we leave the unemployable to their impoverished fate, they will naturally resort to crime and predation in order to survive and feed their families.
3. Subsidize them with welfare.
Take money from the people who have jobs (and are productive) and from corporations who have profits to support the people who are unemployed, unemployable and non-productive.
We’re already doing this to some surprising degree. Some states provide over $30,000 per year in welfare for the unemployed. Hawaii reportedly hands out up to $60,000 a year. You could retire in frozen Minnesota on roughly $1,200 a month ($14,400/year) on So-So Security, or you could move to sunny Hawaii, establish residency, and claim $60,000 a year in welfare while you “chill” on the beach.
In some states, young people can make more money by being unemployed/unemployable while they stay home, sleep late and collect welfare than they can getting an average job that requires them to not only work, but get up in the morning, drive to and from work and hang out with people they can’t stand. Welfare in many states is not merely a temporary support so people can barely “get by” when they’re unemployed, it’s a viable, even enviable lifestyle choice. A growing number of Americans aren’t taking welfare because they can’t find a job; they’re taking welfare because they don’t want a job and welfare provides a more attractive lifestyle than working for a living.
Consider a man who can collect $30,000 per year in total welfare benefits. After you figure for taxes, that’s equivalent to having a job that pays $36,000 a year (about $18/hour)–without having to work or pay the costs of transportation to and from the job or the costs of daycare for the kids. All things considered, $30,000 a year on welfare may compare favorably with a $50,000 a year for a job. Would you rather have $50,000 a year (before taxes) for a job, or $30,000 a year (no taxes) for staying home?
For now, choosing to live on welfare is, for many people, an intelligent choice. I’ve heard one welfare recipient boast that you’ve got to be crazy to have a job instead of welfare. Welfare recipients are arguably better off than the “drones” who not only trudge back and forth to work each day, but even pay to support the welfare recipients.
Given that welfare has become a rational lifestyle choice for many Americans, how long before more of the “drones” wake up and say “Screw this job, I want to retire now onto welfare”?
What’s going to happen to the American work ethic if people who won’t work can live better than those who do?
With the advent of more robots, are we heading for a “workers’ paradise” where no one has to work?
Will robots serve our every need? Will we all live like kings? Or will only a few of us (those who own robots) live like emperors, while the vast majority of us (the unemployable) subsist in violent and abject poverty?
Will a nation of unemployed people necessarily be a bad thing? Will the masses of welfare recipients waste their lives on booze, drugs and fornicating with each others’ wives? Or will welfare subsidies allow some significant number of the unemployed to study, research and develop new products and understandings capable of making our lives even better?
Does mankind need to work–not simply to produce enough to satisfy his physical needs, but also to provide for his psychological needs? Can a nation survive without work (meaning) for its people?
If we choose to generously subsidize every American who is unemployed, won’t those subsidies encourage more illegal aliens to invade this country in search of welfare rather than jobs?
Would those who fear losing their jobs to illegal aliens more likely to lose their jobs to robots?
Will robotics usher a new Renaissance–or another dose of the Dark Ages?
Robotics is an astonishing technology. But it’s also the basis for a cultural revolution that will force us to face some scary choices in the near future. Shall we kill the unemployable? Shall we ignore the unemployable? Shall we subsidize the unemployable? Shall we join the unemployable?
As you watch the Kiva robots in the Amazon.com warehouse, note that there are still some people employed as “packers”. How long before they’re replaced by more robots and also condemned (liberated?) to the rolls of the unemployable? How long before you are replaced by a robot or an app? Who will then pay to support you–and why should they?