Rosy never wanted to render us useless — did she?
A future full of robots. AI bots. Artilects they call them. Bots of every mundane variety. Bots of high level tasks too. Bots supplanting nearly every human endeavor, every human job, every need for work to get itself done. “Get r’ done” Larry would say. Little did we know that that “r” stood for robot.
One of the rosy pictures the happy futurists etch on their iPads is one where humans are freed from the drudgery and toil of hundreds of mundane jobs. Well, we’ve already had that now haven’t we. Brown collar workers, that is, farmers, were the first to go. Then blue collar was next on the list for elimination of grinding toil brought on by robotic automation. Now transbots are on the move soon to replace the eyes and ears and innate GPS of drivers everywhere. Soon AI bots, those artilects, are slated to, in tandem with all the other previously successful robotic replacements, replace easily half of the world’s population in those burdensom, mundane, wage earning jobs.
But that’s OK. No, it’s more than OK, it’s bloody well grand!
Those of us, those millions of us, will be able to settle back and start our little artisanal businesses. You know the type: some will brew beer, bottle wine, distill whiskey. Others will bake bread and sweets. Some will weave and sew and knit. Thousands of others will paint and sculpt, weld steel, blow glass, throw pots. And a fair number of us may sit down and pen away, dreaming up all the epic stories that have yet to be dreamt. Ah, Maggie, can’t ya see it? Won’t it be glorious!
And all those shiny methodical robots will be shuffling about cleaning this, delivering that. Growing our food, taking care of our elders, maintaining and fixing and building and doing all the things our robotic economy will need to get done.
But, you know Jon-Tom’s pub down the street there? The one where he sells that wondrous dark barley ale with the hint of rosemary? Yeah, I’m afraid to say I can no longer afford it. Ol’ Jon-Tom is asking $10.00 a pint now, his expenses being so high. He has to pay for all that grain that the robots grow you know. And you know who owns the robots and the land under the grain right? Yeah, it’s the masters there. The ones who live up on the hill surrounded by their own private robotic police force. So, yeah. I don’t buy Jon-Tom’s fine ale anymore. Can’t afford that savory bread Sonja across town sells either; too dear. Seems that not only does her grain costs so much, but she has to pay for robo-delivery too.
No bread, no beer. No cheese either, same tale. I’ve had to sell all the sculptures I’ve carved (and a few of my tools too) to buy wool clothing for the kids. I’m a fair one with a chisel and gouge you see. I sure wish I could get a job of some sort so that I could pay for the comm-connect my children need to learn their lessons and all the great stuff they have on that KnowledgeNet. But I can’t even afford that. But we survive. The government continues to deliver our human stipend and so we can still buy McDonalds. Those burgers only cost a dollar! I don’t know what’s in ‘em but if it weren’t for them I’m sure we’d all starve. And the ‘Donaldbots that make and serve the food there are darn quick on the job.
Our robotic future is coming. Sure there are hundreds of thousands of existing robotic workers humming along away right now. Well oiled and silent their complaints are a bare whisper. But these are just the first salvo of the robotic arsenal that’s being fired over the wall. With population projections topping 9 billion souls by 2050, you can imagine that we’ll have at least 1 billion TinMen chopping their way into our workforce by then. No one knows the impact 50% automation of all work will have on humanity. But we can get an inkling: current there are 50 million folks on food stamps; shadow unemployment of 15 to 20%, tens of thousands of jobless college graduates. Now double or triple those numbers in the coming decades. That sure is one shiny looking future to me.