The Coming Problem
So Humans Need Not Apply came out a little after my 51st birthday and I learned about it several days after that via io9. And yes, I find it’s logic sound: robots are going to eliminate most but not all jobs eventually. I have been informally considering these ideas of extreme automation for many decades now, at least since watching the “The Brain Center at Whipple’s” as a kid in the 1970s.
It’s not that robots will kill us all, although the military has plenty now that can do that, nor will they rule over us, although our environmental, economic and geopolitical simulation software continues to get better which puts computers in a very powerful advisory role, it’s that machines will take most of the jobs away. There are many who still think this won’t happen but I disagree with them, I think CGP Grey’s position holds up.
So what do we do about that? What do we do when most of our best educated, best trained students can’t find employment simply because the machines are doing the work more efficiently, more skillfully or more cheaply than they ever could? Robot taxis and tractor trucks are coming and they are just the start of a decades long process where most of the jobs will be eroded away–with very few replacing them.
At the moment, the only long term solution I can see to this is a universal basic income. This is a very old idea and finds support from people as politically diametric as Noam Chomsky and Milton Friedman. Maybe in the centuries past, when automation only pushed people to newly created jobs, the idea was premature. Various objections to the idea have been raised but, if Grey’s points stand the test of time and change, I don’t see how we can avoid this. We certainly can pay for it.
Anyway, I plan to keep coming back to this issue as time goes on here because I think it’s very real and dangerous one if not dealt with. We need to find the political will act on this problem now to avoid a lot of needless suffering as the robots cast more and more of us out of work and retraining won’t get us into a diminishing pool of jobs.