Bill Gates spoke at The American Enterprise Institute last Thursday and stated, “Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… it’s progressing. Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set… 20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”
So what does this mean? Inevitably what this will call for is not sanctions on automated workers, but a change in how we perceive economics as a whole. As robots can perform more and more complicated tasks, more and more efficiently than humans, the number of jobs available will naturally decline. And no – the number of programmers to robots/robot repairers to robots/robot sentience checkers to robots is not a 1:1 ratio.
What that means is we have to reevaluate how we get resources necessary for survival to the people who are not working, or who are no longer needed to work. Currently, we invent jobs that are essentially pointless to keep people working. A machine could make a McDonalds hamburger just as well as a human.
This means that, eventually, the human element in menial jobs (and perhaps even more complicated jobs, as time goes by) will be eliminated. That means a lot of people with nowhere to work, and no money to spend. At this point, we have to find a new way to provide for the unemployed, and work towards eliminating the stigma surrounding unemployment.
I think what this means is a society where the government provides some minimum standard of living for all of its citizens. The incentive to work would then not be surviving, but to get extra. As processes become more efficient, and humanity as a whole becomes wealthier (total resources available per person increases), this standard of living would increase. It sounds like a fantasy now, but eventually, in the future, I think a system like this is necessary. We can’t, and shouldn’t, try to halt progress to maintain a system that is obsolete.