Embracing The Automation Upgrade
The day I first witnessed self check out kiosks at the supermarket, I vowed to never use them. I thought that if I always refused to be checked out by a computer, the supermarkets would always need to hire at least one real person. I could save one job, and preserve one families ability to make a living. I was legitimately worried about automation taking over jobs, and people not having the means to provide for themselves and their families. Decisions and conclusions derived from a state of fear I have found rarely are optimal. I failed to see the big picture.
The day humans decided to pick up sticks and use them to hunt they became technology using creatures. The day they used a rock to sharpen that stick was the day the began using their creativity and ingenuity to improve technologies. It’s inherent in our species, and it will not stop. Does it make sense to fight it? What is the goal of technology? Ultimately I believe we pursue technology to increase humanities quality of life, by lessing the amount of time and energy spent in the monotonous daily activities of survival. Taking a sharp stick and killing a big animal is an incredibly more efficient means of acquiring food than picking roots and bugs. And this gives more time for the finer things in a cave persons life, like cave painting.
So if these robots are here to take care of the jobs that many of us don’t really like and only do as a means of survival, where’s the problem? Isn’t the point of technological advance to reach the ideal society where robots take care of all the labour while humans are left to enjoy their lives inventing, creating and exploring? It seems moving in this direction would include the continuing erosion of jobs by computers and robots. The problem isn’t the advancement of technology and displacement of workers, it’s how to restructure our society in a way that all benefit from this advancement of technology. And how to do it without producing casualties along the way.
I’m not sure of the best way to go about it. One suggestion I’ve heard is a UBI (Universal Basic Income) as a means to support the people caught in middle of this upgrade process. The only problem I have with this idea is the use of force. I could only fully endorse it if it were to be something that was completely voluntary. One way people may be able to achieve this is by choosing to spend their dollars with companies that truly help to advance the world. And not supporting ones that just look to exploit and profit off of it with no regard of the future or elevation of societal quality of life.
I do think the natural outcome, if we proceed in the optimal direction of this continuing technological advance, is a moneyless society. The reasoning is simple, if robots are doing all of the work for free, who is making money to spend on anything? There becomes a point when companies cut out labour completely, essentially wiping out their customer base. At this point money would be redundant anyway. If cost of production is zero, it really doesn’t make sense to have money. At such a point in society everyones material wealth is equal as all goods and services are free. People would be free to do what they wished, providing it doesn’t violate someone else. Painters would be free to paint, inventors free to invent, and bums free to do nothing.
People often tell me that there would be no motivation for anyone to do anything in such a society. I always ask them if every opportunity opened up for them would they do nothing? There may be some people who actually decide to do nothing, and we should let them. There would be no reason not too. Sure we could offer advice, suggestions and of course education and training would be free. Most people will feel compelled to do things with their lives anyhow. Many, many people who spent countless laborious hours on invention, innovation, the arts, etc… have done so not for money. They do it because they want to, they feel driven to. It is their passion. In fact many had to take time away from their great works in order to pay the bills and in many cases to fund their own work. Imagine what humans could create if they were not distracted with things like paying the grocery bill, taxes or rent.
So now I say bring on the robots and computers, the faster the better. It will inevitably happen, so lets start figuring out what we can do to make this transition as smooth as possible.