wildly optimistic daydreaming

 CGPGrey recently pointed out that employment as a mechanism for distributing resources is unsustainable -- we're, like, a couple years away from huge segments of employment being no longer things that people do. Watch the video. It's the second time I've linked it so you know it's important.

In the podcast he co-hosts, Hello Internet, he pointed out that this change is coming way, way faster than we tend to assume -- in many states, laws allowing for driverless cars to start taking over for people driving cars are not just in the works: they are passed, and kick in next year.

Not figuratively next year, like people say "Today things are X, but Tomorrow they will be Y." Literally next year. 2015.

I don't feel like being depressing in this post right now, though. So instead of talking about how horrible it's going to be in the space between: (a.) corporation owners getting virtually all of the money because they'll replace all of their wage earners with single-payment robots; and (b.) the government finally taking that money away from them and giving it to the unemployed, because if they don't it defeats the purpose of having currency in an economy[1. protip: money's for facilitating the exchange of goods and services, not a way for a small group of people to keep score.]; I want to talk about how great it's going to be after we solve the problem of how we could possibly manage, as a civilization, to distribute our abundant resources to the people in that civilization.

Advantages of systematic unemployment:

  • An end to sleep deprivation: everybody's lives are radically improved by no longer being constantly in a state of zombified mental strain
  • Better food: let's be honest, the only reason anyone ever goes to McDonald's is because they don't have the time for better food. People could cook for themselves, plan meals, make more adventurous choices with eating, host dinner parties, and cook for all their friends. Cooking is a fun hobby! When people have the time for it and can get ingredients it's likely to improve everybody's quality of life.
  • Free time: I got lost trying to calculate how much free time a person has now, but it's somewhere short of 8 hours per weekday, 16 hours per weekend-day. That's great, but if you're sleep deprived most of the time, and you only get that free time after spending a sleep-deprived day doing sub-optimal work, you're going to be very tired in that free time. Not only does free time just about double if you don't have a job, but the quality of that time is improved.
  • Decreased stress: Jobs cause a lot of stress. You know what else causes stress? Poverty. Poverty causes tons of stress. People in poverty functionally all have a debilitating chronic illness that is their financially induced stress. But if civilization is set up to provide for people who can't earn the living to provide for themselves, that source of stress goes away!
    • In case you skipped the video, (go back and watch it, but) this is important: soon, people are going to be unable to provide for themselves, not because they can't do a job, but because they can't do any job better than the robots that also do that job, and especially can't do it cheaper.
  • Education: If there's basically no job training you can enter that's going to be productive anyway, why not go to school for stuff that interests you? People could, if provided for, become way more informed about politics, sociology and science, the arts, basically anything -- huge areas of human endeavor could be opened up to people who would otherwise never have been able to devote that time and energy to those endeavors.

Now, granted, none of this is going to happen. Based on the trajectory of American politics as they exist today, we're at like 99% likelihood of just completely disintegrating as a country instead of taking any action that remotely resembles a child's fridge drawing of what they think they heard somebody say about communism, which rules out any political action that suggests things might be okay if less than 112% of the population has a full-time job.

But, in the hypothetical world where compassion and humanity enter into political discussions, robots taking over for all the jobs is going to be so cool.