Korea has opened the world’s first virtual shopping center. All the products are just LCD screens that allow you to order the items by touching the screen. When you get to the counter, your items are already bagged and ready to go.
Pretty cool. No more shopping carts.
But also, a lot less stock boys to stock the shelves and fewer, if any, people hired as a check-out clerks and bag boys. Where will these people find jobs?
Will we simply leave those who’ve been replaced by automation and robots to be unemployed, homeless and short-lived?
Or will we pass laws to feed, cloth and shelter everyone who can’t or won’t work in an increasingly automated and “robotized” economy?
Last year, I saw a report that the #1 industrial province in China expect to replace up to 90% of it workers with robots by A.D. 2020. That’s just four years from now. If Chinese robots are not only more efficient than Chinese workers but also less expensive to operate–I guarantee that they’re less expensive to operate than American workers. That means most American blue collar and clerical workers are going to be replaced by robots–and not so long from now.
The economics of automation guarantee that, one way or another, technology will soon render most people unemployed. Will these millions of unemployed be provided for or disposed of?
This robotized technology will be introduced as something wonderful and exciting. For example, here’s a 3 minute and 21 second video from Domino’s Pizza advertising the “wondrous” advent of the “autonomous pizza delivery vehicle” (“autonomous” is polite, non-technical term for “robot”):
Gee! What’ll they think of next? Makes us all feel like we’re living like one of the Jetsons, doesn’t it?Well, thanks to the happy face on that video, almost everyone feels like a Jetson–except for the pizza delivery guys who’ll be unemployed. And, soon enough,the cooks who currently make the pizzas and the clerks who take the telephone delivery orders will also be unemployed. Perhaps the “autonomous pizza delivery vehicle” should shed its bright, optimistic colors and be painted pure black to signal the bad news it implies for current pizza workers.
How will society and our system of values be modified to accommodate a population where most people don’t have to work to earn their keep? On what basis will we value others if they don’t have or need jobs? On what basis will we value our selves?
How many of us can sustain our own lives without the work that not only gives many of us our only sense of self-esteem, but also provides us with evidence that we are each somehow “important” to this world and even “necessary”?
What’s the importance of a father (or mother) to children who are supported for free by the robotized state?
What’s the life-expectancy for a man who knows his life has no meaning and he is unneeded and unnecessary?
I’m going to assume that in our “brave, new” robotized world, the government will guarantee that each of us gets an equal share of whatever “pie” is produced by our robots. I’ll also assume that at some point, the supply of “pie” will become relatively fixed. (We’ll call it “peak pie”.)
Then, if you’d like more pie, how could you get it? You can’t work harder because you don’t have a job. But suppose you could kill most of your friends and neighbors and thereby reduce the number of people claiming a slice of the “pie”? If you could kill half the population of your country, you could double the size of your slice of the pie.
We live in times that are far beyond “interesting”.
Our times are radical, volatile and increasingly scary.