A commenter on my Youtube channel, though leftist, did indeed make a comment that made me think. He said that, ideally, and hopefully in the near future, robots will replace human labor resulting in everybody's needs being met. This would wipe out nearly all jobs, but would allow for and mandate a guaranteed income for most humans, even those that did not work.
Though idealistic, poppycock like this can only come from leftist 20 somethings steeped in academia and too much reality TV, there were strains and elements of his point that did make sense, or at least intrigued me, and thus merited a full thinking through. And so I donned my motorcycle helmet, put on my gloves, and hopped on the ole Cappy Capp Cycle and headed out west to think this one through.
And think through it I did. So permit me to share the results.
The first thing to point out about a utopia in which robots do all of our labor and we loaf around like Roman emperors is that it is never going to be possible. Human labor will still be required for tasks that robots are just not ever going to be capable of. Most obvious of which is who will program, build, and maintain the robots? Relatedly, robots not being sentient and incapable of identifying a need in the market will not know what robots to build in the first place to meet the ever changing and evolving demands of humans. Also, robots are incapable of trouble shooting and doing complex diagnoses such as a "ghost" in your motorcycle, a medical problem, or an active crime, let alone coming up with the solution to fix such problems. Finally, humans also want the human touch. This could be anything from a massage, spa treatment, or waiting tables to books, movies, art, and umm....*ahem* the eldest profession.
Because of this, the best of my thinking leads me to believe that there will be at least THREE general types of human labor that will never go away:
1. Programmers and builders of robots
2. Tradesman that require non-programmable skills that can solve randomness (surgeons, plumbers, lawyers, mechanics, etc.
3. Personal human or "vanity" services
There could certainly be more and no doubt we could debate about the above, but in the "Robot Economy" one thing is for certain - what human jobs do exist will be classified into two general cateogies:
You will either decide at the age of 15 "Eh, I just want a life of leisure and will live off of my mandating income, maybe working a shift as a waiter" or "No, I want to go the extra mile and become a surgeon." This will result in a heavily skewed or asymptotic labor market with two very distinct classes within:
So far there is nothing technically wrong with this theoretical economy. If robots and technology are efficient enough you only need a small percentage of "high skilled" workers to support the robots which in turn supports the much more numerous "low skilled" workers. Matter of fact, this would indeed be ideal and I'd be all for it.
There just a couple problems...as there always is with ideas coming out of academia.
1. Some Humans Breed to Resource Capacity
If we could be assured that humans would only have a certain amount of children, this idealistic economy may work. Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to breed to the point their resources are stretched. Admittedly, not ALL humans do this, some living within their means, but noticed how I said, "some" humans and not "all." The reason why is that it only takes SOME humans to outbreed past the productive capacity of the entire roboticized economy. And before you jump to conclusions about which humans those are, I would say nearly all of them.
Africans are the most obvious of this example. Trillions of dollars in aid didn't increase the income per capita of Africa in large part because just more capita were made. It is NOT a coincidence that the poorest countries have the highest birthing rates. Regardless, more money doesn't result in increased standards of livings with some humans, just more capita.
But what of those responsible suburbanite SWPL people only having 1.4 children per couple? See they're not breeding past the productive capacity of said roboticized industries!
Oh, you mean the people who "have to" buy McMansions they can't afford, lease cars that cost more than my mortgage, wear clothes that will be out of fashion in 6 months, and keep those monstrosities of debt-fueled spending frenzies called "malls" in business all while majoring in sociology thinking that career will pay for their outlandishly expensive dreams?
You mean those fiscally austere and responsible people?
Yeah, right, they'll NEVER out-consume the productive ability of the roboticized economy.
In short, it really doesn't matter your race is. The point is even if you come from the poorest classes on the planet or hail from the richest, it is human nature to consume to the point your finances are stretched. This will put pressure on not just the roboticized economy to constantly produce more and more, but insane demands on the humans on the back-end of said economy to keep up with the insatiable demands of the low-skill class.
2. The Human Ego Will Not Abide a 95% Low Skill Class
If there's something I've learned in the past 4 years about humans, it's that they need ego just as much as they need food, clothing and shelter.
Let's say you magically get it to where 5% of "high skilled humans" can build, manage, and maintain a roboticized economy that supports the remaining 95%.
In that 95% what percent are going to accept a life and career as a waiter, a backrubber, a smiley hotel bell boy, or just nothing? Can you see the DudeBro's being told they aren't going to become investment bankers? Can you see the 30 something independent single woman being told she is not going to have a career in social work? Can you see the Millennial kid being told he's not going to be needed as a lawyer?
They'd all throw temper tantrums.
What you need to realize today that nearly 40% of the employment we have today (most of which is in government, non-profit, and academia) is NOT for some kind of productive purpose that serves society, but is there SOLELY to benefit the ego of two full generations of adult children who are talentless, but are too emotionally fragile to accept it. The HR ditz, the social worker, the teacher, the fireman, the life guard, the non-profit director, you name it. But not only are they too emotionally fragile to accept this reality, they are also too egotistical. They will NOT sit idly by, getting the "High Skilled Person's Test" in this theoretical utopia, finding out they failed, and are condemned to merely collecting a check or being a spa person.
In other words, not only will the Roboticized Economy need to produce enough to provide for the basics of the 95% low-skill class, it will have to have a surplus production of (what I'd estimate to be) an additional 40% GDP to create entire faux "Ego Employment Industries" so millions can make believe and play pretend "professional worker person"...much like we do today.
3. Class Envy
If you think income distribution, class warfare, and class envy is bad now, just wait till the robots take over!
The irony is of course those who clamor for such a roboticized economy and things like "guaranteed income" would be the first to be protesting the "unfairness" and "economic injustice" that those surgeons and robot programmers were making so much more than they were.
Never mind that their food, clothing, and shelter is paid for.
Never mind no human in the history of the world has enjoyed such a life of leisure.
Never mind the above-mentioned system would be as close as humans could get to a genuine "Utopia."
It would be a matter of nano-seconds before the leftists' human nature of envy, greed, and hatred would forget their enviable life of leisure, and start coveting what the high-skill class of humans have.
The truth is that while this utopia is impossible to attain, society has constantly been moving towards it asymptotically the entire time. The West has made amazing, jaw-dropping advances that would no doubt seem magical to people alive just 200 years ago. People back then would have killed and been thankful for what we have today and wouldn't care that they live in the lower skill class. But as is human nature, particularly of the leftist variety, if you grow up surrounded by it, you tend to envy and then villainize the productive people in your society. Ergo, the roboticized asymptotic curve will always forever move towards a perpendicular right angle, providing the masses ever increasing standards of living, but they'll only focus on what the producers have and they don't. Thus, while technology and innovation may in theory make
such an economy a possibility (one can say it already has), it is human nature that will prevent it
from being realized.
Enjoy the decline.