Another article, dealing with the technological innovations that could potentially push the issue.

Automation is coming and it’s going to replace most low-skill, service, and labor-based jobs. Robots and AIs can take your order at restaurants as easily as they can make you a burger1 or drive you to work or build a skyscraper or dig a mine or grow crops or process paperwork (“paperwork”). A huge amount of specialist white-collar work is going to be annihilated, too, including cutting out massive swatches of (ironically) the tech sector; pretty much the majority of the IT department in any large company could be replaced now with decent automation,2 let alone in a few decades.

When this future comes, the people who are going to get rich off it are, obviously, the people who own the robots or, more specifically, own the patents on robots.3 Most everyone else is fucked. I think it’s a libertarian techno fantasy to assume the economy will somehow magically balance itself out; the thing that’s going to force balance is government intervention, either by taxation, or by (quelle horreur) nationalizing the robot labor force. After that, either capitalism collapses–probably via the violent revolution of the proletariat, as tends to happen with these things–or we start moving towards some kind of new, post-work future. It doesn’t have to be post-capitalist, and I don’t think it necessarily will be,4 but I definitely think it’ll be post-work, or at least post our current era’s idea[l] of universal full-time work.

Either way, it’s going to be a turbulent couple of decades, to say to least…

  1. Give it a few decades, and I think “human-cooked food” will be a luxury item. Everything else will be either entirely automated, or mostly automated with some oversight by a human.
  2. This used to be my job, in fact; we replaced about three infrastructure teams with one dude who was pretty good at running Orchestrator against AWS APIs. Never underestimate how much of internal IT is its own self-licking ice cream.
  3. At least until the robots start to own themselves…
  4. Do people sell handicrafts in the world of Star Trek? Like, is there the equivalent of Etsy? If not, how can I get my hands on that Vulcan-themed custom-knitted tea cozy I want?