A dark future?
Automation worries me deeply, despite the fact that I spend a great deal of my professional time automating tasks and low end offshored roles.
The next 100 years are likely to see AI, advanced 3D printing, and robotics replacing people in a substantial number of roles. That may sound a long time away, but your children may have 50 years to work, their children 50 after that. It is likely that the next 20 will see a continued and significant reduction in menial work. The first AI to reach 100 IQ points will be smarter than half the population, so they will be unable to compete for knowledge work. The cost of robotics will drop significantly, and combined with 3D printing of complex parts will remove many manufacturing roles, even those in the developing economies. The developments will be incremental, with the occasional significant leap forward. Simply being more intelligent won’t help for long, as the comparable IQ of AI climbs ever onwards leaving ever more humans unable to keep up. With autonomous vehicle development, any 20 year old embarking on a career in haulage is likely to face disappointment before their late 40s, just as it becomes most difficult to start another career.
Which of today’s careers can be considered immune to automation? Creativity may be harder to code, but that is unlikely to hold out for very long when you can spin up an AI at Google for a week to write you a symphony or design a piece of artwork that arrives on your door from the 3D printer. Sex workers may find their careers the last to be replaced, but which father can honestly advise their child to enter such a business? Obviously new roles will emerge as technology progresses, but it seems, based upon the past, that these may not emerge in the same quantity as those roles being replaced plus the increase in population size.
The human race needs to start taking steps to mitigate the problems coming down the pipeline. We’re not going to have any practical use for half the people we have in 50 years, so we need to move to a model of smaller families and population reduction now, before we get there. Instead of paying endless child benefit, we need to start taxing those with children more on a per child basis, and adjust that in line with predictable advances in technology and automation. It won’t be popular, but the alternative is that social unrest or war kills the balance of those we did not need.
Society already struggles to mitigate the undesirable effects of those that will not work, preferring to claim a lifetime of benefits while causing nothing but adversity to society as a whole. How much worse will it be when even those with drive, ambition, and intelligence find that there are no jobs for them to fill?