02 August

The risk that robots (including soft-bots and other AI-based technology) will take over many people's jobs has been getting a lot of play recently. A notably interesting read is Our Automated Future: How long will it be before you lose your job to a robot? in the New Yorker. The fact that jobs change, and in fact are rendered obsolete, by advances in technology is not new: it's been happening for over a century. What's different is that this rate of job displacement is accelerating.

The even bigger issue is that the advent of intelligent robotics seems to foreshadow a much broader-based displacement of jobs and the need to work at all! In a recent survey, most robotics/AI/ML experts think that machines will be better than humans at just about EVERYTHING by 2060. Of course, the idea that people may need to work little, or not at all, was forecast by Keynes almost a century ago. So far, we also find more to want, more to need and more to strive for beyond the bare essentials. The desire to do more, buy more and compete with your neighbour, constantly redefining what is "essential", just keeps people slaving away ... so far. Does this trend ever end?

In the next couple of decades it's pretty certain that the need to work will diminish or vanish for the majority of people to the extent that it is required to subsist. This, of course, assumes that some social mechanism for distributing resources (food, money, goodies) will be put in place. How society chooses to deal with the distribution of wealth is not a matter of robotics or AI, but human compassion, greed, and social norms.

Robots will be driving us around, buying our groceries and preparing our food. Robot will be cleaning the house and doing the dishes. Will they also keep us busy inventing chores for us?

What is especially new is how this "liberation" will impact our day-to-day lives. Will be all sit around watching reading books all day, will we invent new leisure-based jobs and become tennis instructions, competitors or pro esports players and watchers, or will we descend into some new virtual existence? Some of the biggest risks associated with robotics and AI is no that robotics will kill people, but that we will have so much freedom that we will have to reinvent and redefine what we really wan to do with our time and our lives.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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