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Robots and Intelligent Algorithms Are Taking Our Jobs - Could That Be A Good Thing?

Bernard Marr

Originally published by Bernard Marr on LinkedIn: Robots and Intelligent Algorithms Are Taking Our Jobs - Could That Be A Good Thing?

It’s estimated that between 35 and 50 percent of jobs that exist today are at risk of being lost to automation. Repetitive, blue collar type jobs might be first, but even professionals — including paralegals, diagnosticians, and customer service representatives — will be at risk.

This isn’t just science fiction, it’s happening now. Manufacturing are the first places we see robots and automation eliminating human jobs, but it’s hard to think of an industry that will be left unaffected as robots and AI become more affordable and widespread.

Rather than fight this advancement and wring our hands over the robots “stealing” our jobs, maybe it’s time to envision a jobless future.

Most people are in jobs they don’t particularly enjoy, with lots of mundane and repetitive tasks. Is it not our obligation to pass those jobs to machines?

From a business standpoint, any consultant would tell you that any task that can be systematized and automated should be. Many jobs are not jobs humans should waste their time doing.

The challenge is to rethink our economic model to ensure the people who will do something more interesting and enjoyable can afford to do so.

What would a jobless future look like?

All these technological advances that we are creating today — big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things — represent a significant challenge to capitalism.

The more we automate and systematize, the more we see jobless growth and productivity. Taken to its logical extremes, we have a paradox of an exponentially growing number of products, manufactured more and more efficiently, but with rising unemployment and underemployment, falling real wages and stagnant living standards.

In other words, more products produced more cheaply and efficiently — but no one able to afford to buy them.

In fact, it’s already begun.

The rate of technological progress and worker productivity is on the rise, but wages are stagnating, factories are eliminating jobs, and researchers estimate that anywhere between 35 and 50 percent of jobs that exist now are in danger of being lost to automation.

But what if the prognosis weren’t all doom and gloom? What if all this automation were instead to provide so much luxury that we enter a post-work era, when humans are required to do very little labor and machines provide everything we need?

Fully Automated Luxury Communism describes an idea and ideology that in the (relatively near) future, machines could provide for all our basic needs. Humans would be required to do very little work on quality control and similar oversight, and have much of their time free to pursue other things. The result would be attainable luxury for everyone.

Robots, AI, machine learning, big data, etc. could make human labor redundant instead of creating even further inequalities. It could lead to a society where everyone lives in luxury and where machines produce everything while humans are free to pursue the creative explorations that robots and machines are incapable of: science, art, music, poetry, invention, and exploration.

How a jobless society must work

The trick, however, is subordinating the technology to global human needs rather than to profits.

Putting modern technology to work for the people is an excellent goal, and democratizing the advantages of our advances is already happening in some sectors. Bringing governments and nonprofit organizations onto the same technological footing as for-profit companies is a good step forward and could result in huge strides towards improving living conditions, decreasing crime, ending poverty and other problems.

I believe that if we can collectively turn our technology to the good of everyone, technology would not just be pruning away the jobs that are too mundane for humans to do, but also create new opportunities to replace the ones that were lost. Crucially: the jobs will be pruned regardless, but it is up to us to create the opportunities.

It’s the idea that the next Mozart, or Einstein, or Edison may be waiting — but because of inequalities like poor schooling, hunger, inadequate housing, etc., they may never reach their full potential.

If technology can provide an equal playing field for those children of the future, providing for all their needs, and that is done through the loss of the low-wage, monotonous, unfulfilling jobs we are clinging to today, then I say, destroy those jobs. Make way for the new generation and give them the tools they need to create incredible things.

What do you say? If a jobless future meant an equal playing field for all, would you be for or against it? I’d be interested in your thoughts in the comments below.

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