There has been a great deal written about the technology revolution and how it will lead to massive unemployment in the near future. The basic argument is that, over time, computers will be able to do more and more jobs that human beings are doing today. In addition, robots will soon be able to take over most manual labor, from cleaning floors to washing clothes to guard duty and so on. It is clearly very easy to spin all of these upcoming changes into a story that describes a fundamental reset of society, which will happen despite the best intentions of all types of industry, political and community leaders.
It is very much the history of politics to always find a scapegoat for any difficulties that befall an electorate. It is obviously far easier for an elected official to focus everyone’s attention on a group or event that cannot speak in its own defense. It is unlikely that in the near future, artificial intelligence will allow computers to argue that they are not the true cause of human underemployment. Even if computers could speak, would people be willing to listen to the very same technology that they believe has caused them so much distress?
There is no question that the entire world is experiencing a new age. When Bill Gates speaks of an end to world hunger, he is by no means seen as a fool or false prophet. Daily reports about advances in 3-D printing and other food technologies, make it sound very possible that soon, millions of children will no longer die every year of malnutrition. How could anyone see a downside to such a beautiful image of children around the whole world being properly fed?
Admittedly, it is also true that if these millions of children no longer die, they will mature to a level that will make them candidates for factory work. As such, it is possible that solving world hunger will increase labor forces in the developing world, and once again make outsourcing of manufacturing, financially desirable to the Western world. In this scenario, jobs in countries like the United States may dwindle, and once again people will scream about their state of unemployment.
But the story doesn’t end here. As 3-D printing continues to advance, it is just a matter of time before entire factories are turned into 3-D manufacturing centers. In such centers, each one of the components of the desired item will be printed using high quality but inexpensive raw materials, and robots will do the final assembly of the individual components. Human beings may still be needed for this last part but it is only a matter of time until robots can do the work faster, better and cheaper. In this scenario, there may be no cost benefit to outsourcing manufacturing to the developing world.
So it seems that solving world hunger will ultimately create unemployment both in the developed and developing worlds. And once again, a cry from the nations will rise up to the heavens, saying “save us from this evil that has befallen us”.
By the way, preventing disease and curing existing illnesses, using all forms of future technology, will leave this planet with a lot of older, retired individuals who don’t have much to do with their time. Whatever jobs are available will likely be snapped up by younger people. So in the end, despite a paradise without hunger and disease, and with great longevity of life, it seems that people around the world will be horribly unhappy.
This leaves the world with two options. One option is to endlessly blame technology for saving us and feeding us, just to leave us standing in the middle of the road with no worthwhile path to follow. It is fascinating to think that mindless, soulless technology is so effective at ruining the lives of people around the world.
There is a second option.
The second option is not easy. It is definitely not the path that many people have chosen on there own. Basically, the second option involves more and more people creating their own value in this world. Imagine at some point, every person in the world becoming part of a start up. These start ups would take full advantage of whatever technologies and infrastructure exist at the time. Standardized paths for people to follow in their studies and workplaces will likely fall away. From as young an age as possible, human beings will be taught to think outside the box and explore uncharted area.
What will human beings and the world itself need once the “major killers” have been eliminated? An end to war would be nice. And this might come from a startup that creates a highly effective neutralizing agent that works against any type of weapon. Or perhaps, someone will come up with a brain stimulator, hidden within version 10 of Google Glasses, that inactivates people’s desire for war.
The simple fact is, I have no idea. What I do know is that people will suddenly begin to experience freedom from the present day challenges of life. With that freedom, people will have the time and resources to explore any idea that may come to mind.
Most people actually aren’t very comfortable with having limits removed. That’s why the vast majority of people who win huge sums of money in lotteries, self-destruct. When all of our constraints are removed, our minds begin to spin so quickly, that they drive us mad. But if we raise our children to embrace a limitless world, their minds will not spin out of control. They will use that centripetal force to imagine things that no one has thought of yet. And those of the older generations will just stand in awe and truly wonder how these new miracles were never thought of before.
Technology creates opportunities. I wholly admit that for people who do not know how to exploit such opportunities, they will be left on the outside, with nothing to do. But for those people who embrace this new world, they will always stay occupied, whether it be with the kinds of things that employ us today, or with a totally different kind of activity.
“Today” is nothing more than history’s last gasp for air. For the children of tomorrow, they will constantly be focused on the future. I guess that means that the expression “be nice to your children for they will decide in which old age home you will live” will transform into “embrace your children, for only they truly understand the path forward”.
Thanks for listening