10 January 2013

Wired: “Better Than Human: Why Robots Will – And Must – Take Our Jobs”

This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots. Ninety percent of your coworkers will be unseen machines. Most of what you do will not be possible without them. And there will be a blurry line between what you do and what they do. You might no longer think of it as a job, at least at first, because anything that seems like drudgery will be done by robots.
We need to let robots take over. They will do jobs we have been doing, and do them much better than we can. They will do jobs we can’t do at all. They will do jobs we never imagined even needed to be done. And they will help us discover new jobs for ourselves, new tasks that expand who we are. They will let us focus on becoming more human than we were.
Let the robots take the jobs, and let them help us dream up new work that matters. Kevin Kelly

This article seems overly idealistic – in the way many predicted half a century ago that we’ll all have flying cars by the turn of the century – to the point of ignoring facts. The issue is not whether this revolution will create new jobs we didn’t have before – I’m sure it will – but whether the new jobs will be sufficient to replace the ones lost to the increased automation; and whether humans will adapt to the new, increasingly complex, jobs fast enough to matter. There is also the obvious issue of income distribution, because under a capitalistic society the majority of income from robot labor will go to their owner, not to the increasingly irrelevant workers. This in turn creates another problem: on one hand increased supply of goods, on the other shrinking demand if the middle-class doesn’t have the money to purchase them - a classic recipe for economic crisis. It’s never as easy as just ‘embracing the future’…

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