Here we go again. Experts are stating that in the next few decades robots will take over most of our jobs and we will no longer have to work. Neil Jacobstein, head of AI at Singularity University, has this to say:
AIs will cause significant unemployment but that doesn’t equate with poverty…AIs and other exponential technologies are going to generate vast amounts of wealth. We have to be willing to change the social contract we have with people about how wealth is distributed.
Haven’t we heard this song before? In fact, don’t we hear it on a regular basis? I remember the black and white films from the ’50s presenting a futuristic lifestyle in which machines do everything for us and all we have to do is find new ways to relax. If their predictions had been true, I should have been spending the last 20 years or so with my feet up, drinking cocktails. In fact, computers were supposed to make our lives simpler and easier. Instead, life is even more complex, fast-paced, stressful. I have a feeling running a robot society won’t change that any. And I don’t even want to imagine what happens when we get our minds microchipped, as Mr. Jacobstein suggests–my employer would probably force me to process 10,000 thoughts per minute.
The truth is I don’t want these prophecies about the future to come true. Because life in those ’50s visions of technological utopia looks…mind-numbingly boring. People spend their days playing tennis and watching quiz shows on TV. I already waste too much time on Facebook–would I spend even more time on there? Sharing updates about what kind of food and drink the robots are serving me, since that would be my only activity anyway? I suppose I would be able to blog more often. But if people were no longer getting exploited and overworked by their capitalist bosses, what on Earth would I blog about?
Maybe the reason this makes me so uneasy is that if I didn’t work, there would no longer be any excuse for not getting started on that big fat novel I’m supposed to write. Come to think of it, the ennui of people who do nothing all day is a perfect subject for angsty fiction. Hmmm….bring on our robot overlords, I guess.