The Last Dance

In my morning reading, I came across an article posted on LinkedIn, which summarized the various viewpoints on the future of human employment. The author of this article, both expresses his own views on the issue, but just as importantly, he brings a series of links to lectures on the topic. I personally was enthralled by this entire post, but most by one of the links to a TED talk from over a year ago, by Andrew McAfee. This Ted talk, called “what will future jobs look like“, brilliantly summarizes the economic and personal effects of achieving a reality in which human employment is reduced to an absolute minimum. I strongly advise anyone reading this post to take the time to watch all of the videos on this webpage. This viewing experience could very much change your established perceptions about the future of our society.

Let’s start with a simple statement: human beings are by no means the endpoint of evolution. The fact that a large meteor didn’t impact Earth and force a reset amongst the remaining life, is inconsequential. The looming extinction level event, would be better phrased as “existential level event”. Technology will lead to massive upheaval in every society around the world. For some, it will be a blessing. For those individuals, numbering in the billions, do not have access to those things that the westernized world takes for granted, technology will create for them a chance to live and raise their families without the ever present threats of hunger, disease and even war. For those in the westernized world, technology will have just as dramatic a transformative effect. The difference will be that employment options for humans will dramatically drop, the cost of technology will become almost negligible, and there will be yin-yang clash between living a very standardized lifestyle, versus the human drive to achieve more and greater things.

I personally believe that a major factor in how well at least part of society will adapt to an automatic fixed income and lifestyle, will be the successful  implementation of sexbots. With sufficiently all-encompassing entertainment and a physical device that satisfies the carnal needs, there will be many people who will gleefully accept the Mirage of living on a beautiful beach with an ever attentive companion. Admittedly, such individuals will contribute effectively nothing to society. But if the cost of their maintenance tends towards zero, their existence will be tolerable.

The question raised by the multiple lecturers that are presented on this LinkedIn page is what happens when they literally is no job that robots and computers cannot do better than humans. For those who claim that the arts will always remain a human domain, I would challenge this. Computers will eventually learn to draw and paint better than a Da Vinci. Music will be written by computers and played by robotic instruments, and the quality and sheer beauty of these compositions will far surpass  anything that humans have ever created. Interestingly, I am not at all sure how such a new reality will affect politics and leadership in general. Any individual running for a position of power or command, will have nothing to offer. It will not be possible to offer more jobs unless the politician intends to enforce an anti-robot policy within the given state and/or country. I would hope that people would realize that this is fruitless and an ineffective solution.

Research into the sciences will also fundamentally change. Human subjects will be replaced with human tissue simulators that allow for the full range of testing necessary for a new medication. And this testing will take  a fraction of the time and money that human clinical trials demand. There will always be a place for research for the sake of research. Pure basic science research will study esoteric topics that no one initially appreciates. But it is these research projects that may very well improve our understanding of everything. I guess the question will be, outside of a small circle of fellow researchers, will anybody care.

It may very well be that most humans will wither away as they apply themselves with 3-D printed LSD and alcohol. Considering that we will all be chipped by the time this is a common situation, once such a human passes away, a robotic caretaker will remove the body and deal with it. So no worries about the smell.

Human beings will definitely have the time to explore philosophy and history and all of the arts and religious studies. Some people will see this as true paradise. Free to focus purely an entirely on their personal opus, such people will spend their very long lives on becoming human experts on a variety of topics. Whether human insights into these topics will in any way be superior to those of thinking computers, is a different story.

Ultimately, this is a classic example of the careful what you wish for. At the moment I am in between jobs, but I am incredibly fortunate that I have the funds not to worry about paying my bills for a good while. This leaves me with a day that I fill with reading articles about cutting-edge science, and then writing blog posts based on these articles I have read. I spent some of my time watching TV shows and science programs. Part of my day is spent eating, and interacting with my children who are still young enough to be coming home on a semiregular basis. At the moment, I am contributing my ideas and knowledge to a couple of startups, who seem to be happy with my input.

I definitely could enhance my knowledge base using the many online universities, that even give certificates and degrees for completion of a body of work. Quite frankly, I am just too lazy to do this. It is very possible that my present situation is a future vision of the daily experience of human beings. I honestly don’t know and would never dare guess how this will play out when billions of people are sharing this type of experience. But we should all be sure the fact that this is the most likely future we can expect. And I find it hard to believe that any individual or group will or even can do anything to change our trajectory.

Thanks for listening

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.