With the rapid development of artificial intelligence and robotics, concern is beginning to grip a core of important people. Highly capable automated systems and machines will take jobs, and human job-holders will find themselves unable to compete with the vastly superior skills of an army of robots. Without doubt, AI has made tremendous strides, and it is certainly worth considering.
The scenario works like this: There are four types of work, depending on how repetitive and how much brain power is required—repetitive and cognitive, non-repetitive and cognitive, repetitive and non-cognitive, and non-repetitive and non-cognitive. Many of the repetitive jobs are already at risk or gone, as well as non-cognitive work. It won’t be long before even highly-cognitive work is also threatened. As work becomes automated and robots become the norm, wide swaths of the population will find themselves without any ability to support themselves and their families. I have seen the analogy of the economy as a plane with four engines, the different types of work. As the engines go out one by one, the plane gets closer and closer to a crash landing. Politicians must do something!!!!!!
Fortunately for everyone, the economy is not a plane with four engines that are burning out. It is, instead, a complex adaptive system, in fact an incredibly complex, very adaptive, wide ranging system, covering a huge geographic area, with millions, and indeed billions of people, making billions of decisions every minute of every day. A closer analogy would be a living organism than a machine with engines and controls. It has positive and negative feedback loops that not even the most complex artificial intelligence can or will be able to control or even predict, fundamentally because the actors who make up the system, the vast networks of human bodies and minds, are not atoms with set, determinate properties. They can change their minds, they can be stubborn, they can follow the herd or they can lead the way to change.
One thing that we know from the entirety of history is that human society reacts to changes in stimulus. People, very fortunately, are self-interested. When something bad happens, they do whatever they can to preserve their own lives and that of family, friends, etc. They also have found, however, that by cooperating with others, they can magnify their own results. That is why the human race has survived and thrived.
The important point to keep in mind is that technology is not a new, competitive, autonomous species intent on displacing humans. It is just a tool for human beings to do things more efficiently or more cheaply, to satisfy their own needs and the needs of others in cooperative exchange. Businesses use automation and technology to be more profitable in those voluntary exchanges. Without customers, however, there is no exchange. That is one of the feedback loops in a functioning economy. Though not perfect as some would like it, as people lose jobs, they lose income, which means less product sold, which means lower prices, which means less capital for investment in automation. It also means that technology declines in price, as demand for it lags.
The cheap, abundant technology is not only available for mega corporations, but can also be utilized by individuals and small businesses to increase their own ability to satisfy the wants and needs of others more efficiently. Technology means that, as there are fewer traditional jobs, there is more opportunity for displaced workers to create value in their own way, for their own customers.
The only way that that will not happen is if politicians pretend that they know the future and how the economy should work, take matters into their own hands, and do something.