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We Shouldn’t Fear a Robotic Future

They may kills us eventually. But until then, they'll make life a whole lot easier.

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

January 23, 2014 - 7:00 am

terminator

There’s an old anecdote which tells that Milton Friedman visited a foreign country where workers were digging a canal with shovels. He asked an official why they weren’t using heavy machines, bulldozers or other earth movers. The official said the project was part of a jobs program. Friedman quipped that, if jobs were the goal, they ought to be digging with spoons.

The story has been retold many times, and the details vary. But the underlying principle remains the same. The object of production is value, not jobs.

As we contemplate the imminent advancement of robotics, and the capacity of machines to produce more of the value in our lives, the Friedman anecdote applies anew. MailOnline reports:

Experts are predicting a ‘jobocalypse’ as robots take over manual jobs, while scientists at Cambridge warn that machines should have their intelligence limited to stop them outsmarting us.

A new version of the movie RoboCop (out February 12) shows us a future where technology [revolutionizes] law enforcement, but that is just the tip of the iceberg for robotics.

‘I believe we are the inflection point where robotics are going to change everything you know and do,’ says Ben Way, author of Jobocalypse, a book about about the rise of the robots, told MailOnline.

He says everyone from bartenders to drivers are at risk.

‘They will have the impact to take away 70% of all traditional jobs in the next 30 years,’ he said.

That prospect seems less shocking when you place it into historical context, as I’ll explain on the next page.

For instance, if you went back in time to the dawn of the automobile and heard someone say 70% of jobs related to the care and distribution of horses would be gone in 30 years, would you freak? Of course not. Being from the future and such, you would understand that the loss of those jobs would pale in comparison to the increase in quality of life made possible by the new technology. You would also understand that the proliferation of automobiles would lead to the development of new jobs which those around you could scarcely imagine. If someone suggested that automobiles ought to be banned or that their development ought to be throttled in some way in order to preserve the horse industry, you would understand them to be a fool.

The same applies to robotics today. The only difference between scenarios is that we cannot see into the future. We cannot see what life will actually look like when robots dig our ditches, pour our drinks, and change our infants’ diapers. All we see are the “lost jobs.” We must imagine the higher quality of life and as of yet inconceivable jobs which will emerge in a society where so much can be done so cheaply.

Walter Hudson advocates for individual rights, serving on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, and as president of the Minority Liberty Alliance. He hosts a daily podcast entitled Fightin Words, proudly hosted on Twin Cities Newstalk Podcast Network. Walter is a city council member in Albertville, MN. Follow his work via Twitter and Facebook.

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All Comments   (18)
All Comments   (18)
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The Government provided ALL sorts of tax incentives to computerize. That put one Helluva lot of people out of work in addition to, to my eternal chagrin, eliminating the dating possibilities in the typing pool.

There is a public policy question here as to whether we need to manage the economy such that there are jobs for people; a human producer consumes and drives the economy, a robot doesn't. I don't think we need "red lantern" laws but there is one Helluva lot of "crony capitalism" in America and you can get the Government to favor your company or your industry WAY too easily. Human labor should be able to at least compete on a level playing field with technology. If it can't those of us who still have jobs will be supporting those who have been displaced at whatever level the Democrats determine to be necessary to get their votes.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
As long as there are no robots made doing all the housework - from dusting ot ironing, washing and tidying, bed-making and bathroom-cleaning, I'm not impressed ...
;-)
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Glad I understand auto mechanics. No robot's going to replace me in the next 50 years.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
You've already been pretty much replaced. Nobody really "fixes" cars anymore; they just put in new parts and new computer boards until the thing runs again. If it needs the sort of stuff that required "mechanic" skills, say, valve jobs, rings, mains, you just sh*tcan it and get another one.

If you really are a mechanic, you have a bit of a future as a marine mechanic because most boats still have old carburetted engines with distributors and no computers, but you're always subject to the government banning those.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not so sure I agree. There is a counterpoint to the "higher quality of life" conclusion. It is presented in a book titled "Who Owns the Future?" By Jaron Lanier. For those who don't know, Lanier is the father of virtual reality. When he says "I was talking to Bill ..." Or "Steve said..." He means Gates and Jobs. He is at the cutting edge of technology, not some tin-foil-hat type or pie-in-the-sky futurist. He concurs with the Mr. Hudson about the arc of technology. But he is not nearly so sanguine about the outcomes. For those interested, I highly recommend the book.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
First the robots must pleasure us!
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'll be dead by then. Anything that happens after I'm dead is somebody else's problem. After all, what have future generations ever done for us?
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is a limit to this. It is true that in the past machines destroyed some jobs but others took their place. Those were dumb machines that could only to one or two tasks. What we are seeing today is smarter and more capable machines squaring off against badly education and highly expensive (thanks to government) human labor.

Just look at current events. Manufacturing is dying in the US and the jobs are not being replaced, not even in the service sector. Indeed service sector jobs are being replaced by machines. These new robots will take away jobs and then more will take the jobs that human might have moved in to. Humans might be stuck working farms or maintaining the robots, until robots are built to handle that work, too.

No, things are different this time around. The evidence of that is already in front of our faces.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah yes, the Forbin Project. The law of accelerating returns vastly outpaces the ethics that could/should restrain it....heck, we already eat round-up ready grains, and no one bats an eyelash. Deep learning tech is moving faster than the author probably is aware. I think Bill Joy had it right a decade ago.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is one of the reasons I find the current talk of raising minimum wage perplexing.

Minimum wage was something like $1.73 for my first job. Minimum wage has gone up many times since then, and so has the price of just about everything. Jobs have gone overseas, and automation has replaced many others.

No doubt automation will increase in coming years.

And you can bet many of those robots will be made in China.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only way robots will end up turning against humans is if some batsh*t crazy lefty goes out and starts claiming to fight for their "rights".

(See: Insane people, institutionalizing, doing away with, 1970's)
(See: Illegal aliens, violent, their rights, preserving them)
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
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