It seems the buzz about AI taking away our jobs is only getting louder with time. Bill Gates has proposed a tax on robots if robots take away your job and 2020 US Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang has called for a Universal Basic Income to guarantee every citizen a fixed income to sustain a decent life. Yang further said on a podcast with Joe Rogan that call center jobs and radiologists would be the next categories of jobs to be automated after self-driving cars eventually replace human drivers and automation software replaces people at groceries and malls. This is a very scary situation and many are anxious about losing their jobs to automation.
Robots Will Be Able To Do Everything
There is another question that is more pressing though. In the distant future when robots will be able to do everything, what will humans be good for? What will we do? How will we survive? Instead of looking at these questions from a purely economical aspect, let’s also look at them in an existential way. For many, work is not just about having a means to an end. Work is worship for a lot of people. Apart from helping them sustain their lives, work provides meaning and purpose to people. A reason to live, a reason to wake up in the morning and think of what lies ahead and look forward to the day. Will a workless future cause an existential crisis then?
To answer the bit on the economic situation, I think the answer is “it depends”. It depends if governments around the world are successfully able to deploy a Universal Basic Income Scheme. That redistributes income justly and fairly. Stephen Hawking was asked this very question in a Reddit AMA session and he said, “The outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution.
So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option. With technology driving ever-increasing inequality.” You see why people aren’t quite optimistic about wealth redistribution being a reality. If history is of any indication. Humans have a track record of being greedy and hoarding wealth and scarce resources to themselves. The only thing we can do is proactively engage in dialogue with our governments. And make them implement a fair system.
Now let’s come to the question of existential crisis. I personally don’t feel that this is going to happen. Although a lot of people define them by the work they do. If jobs go away it doesn’t automatically imply that we’ll be unfulfilled. I think we will embrace non-work and only do things that truly interest us. This gives us more time to pursue our hobbies and check things off our bucket list. That many of us have waited for a long time to do. A machine might create better art than us but we might still create art simply. Because of the joy it gives us and isn’t that what life is about? To be as happy as possible for the limited time we stay alive in this world?