Often, we hear the alarmist pronouncement that technology is eliminating jobs, taking over jobs that humans used to do. This is a fear that has been consistently expressed for long, since the advent of technology and it is becoming truer by the day. Yes, many jobs are simply fading away, the result of improved, efficient and increasing rates of automation. We are in the advent of driverless cars and trucks, robots that can serve as maids, walk in nuclear facilities, go to planetary bodies in spacecrafts, etc, etc, etc. More and more of traditional jobs are simply being rendered redundant and consequently eliminated.
This brings us right back to the question of the purpose of work. We earlier had an article here, asking that particular question. See What’s the purpose of work?
While concerns about the elimination of jobs are valid, it would appear that we are mostly worried because we have not quite agreed on why we are working. The salient question would be, would I be bothered if I have more free time to do anything I like… provided I have an assured perpetual source of income? If a single tractor can do the work of a thousand farmers, would that not be a tremendous boost in productivity, provided those farmers rendered “jobless” have solid sources of income?
The question would of course be, how would I earn an income without a job? It is not an easy question to answer. In any sphere of human existence, what we earn is usually (but not always) dependent to our level of contribution to society…solving problems, providing services. While technology is truly destroying more jobs than it is creating, the key would be finding your niche in the technological snowball, and finding relevance.
The argument of jobs getting eliminated can also be applied to household items we now take for granted. We have washing machines that make manual hand-washing of clothes obsolete, smartphones with awesome cameras that threaten the work of professional photographers, etc.
Machines are doing far more (efficiently) of what used to be done manually / directly by people (as a vocation).The increased efficiency would drastically reduce the cost of living worldwide, as products and services would continually and progressively cost less. Imagine what it would cost to manufacture a car without massive investments and use of robots and robotics. Is it any wonder that highly technological products like smartphones and smartwarches are costing just a fraction of what they used to cost a decade ago, while providing progressively better utilitarian value? Humans are having less to do, yes, but are getting improved products for far less cost.
What’s the purpose of wealth? The absolute quantum of the cash you own is not as important as what that cash can purchase. With increasing automation,small amounts are able to purchase far far more services and products.
One the most persistent problems often associated with having a lot of money and idle time on one’s hands is boredom. It is not for nothing that we have a phrase like “the idle rich”. It would appear that, society is better for it if machines do more of the jobs humans currently do. Increased efficiency, greater throughput… things generally associated with automation. Imagine car assembling plants eschewing robotics on the altar of keeping humans employed. I think the more important concern for those rendered “jobless” would be how to keep themselves occupied with other things that are not job related, provided the income is assured.
What is your take?