So CGPGrey posted a new video today, "Humans Need Not Apply." It's 15 min. long, and it's about the inevitable replacement of humans with machines in virtually all fields of employment. Here's the video. I strongly recommend it.
In the comments, this exchange happened:
NicholasRiviera: What's the problem with robots doing our jobs?
Discitus: Only that you would no longer have a job, and therefor no money.
NicholasRiviera:+Discitus But everything would be extremely cheap and you'd have some money from the state.
In response to which, I kinda ranted. And since the rant ended up being over 500 words long, I'm reposting it here.
+NicholasRiviera Yeah, that's one of the potential solutions -- but, I don't know where you're writing from, but a lot of us in the USA aren't optimistic that our government is capable of the level of human empathy necessary to offer everyone a liveable income without demanding that they prove their worth somehow.
Grey's point is that soon it's not going to be possible for most people to prove their worth.
What we're worried about isn't the inevitable future where the remaining humans get stipends because, frankly, how else can we organize a post-employment society? We're worried about the X number of years or decades during which tens of thousands of us die or suffer catastrophically poor quality of life while the privileged elite keep telling themselves, each other, and us that if we just applied ourselves, buckled down, took some risks and worked harder, we'd be able to get a job and pay for ourselves.
It's happening already in the US. About 15 percent of the population is either unemployed or underemployed -- that is, can only get part time work when they want to be working full-time. The national minimum wage is 7.25, which is lower than the national average living wage of about 10 -- and that's if you can actually get 40 hours a week. I don't know what percent of Americans work full time at minimum wage, but we can safely add them to the percent of Americans who couldn't support themselves, living on their own, with no dependents, on the amount of money they're able to make.
If Grey's right -- and he is -- the segment of the American population who will find it impossible to achieve independent financial stability is only going to increase. And there's nothing in the American political dialogue that suggests our government is capable of addressing that fact. The most radical attempt to improve the financial prospects of Americans right now is President Obama's push to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 -- which is certainly necessary, but does little or no good to the 15 percent of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed. And the conservative pushback against that move has been immense.
Yes, inevitably, the developed world will achieve a break from the mentality that productive employment is a prerequisite for food and shelter. But the fact that we know some of us, in some parts of the world, are going to get there eventually, does not mean that it will happen soon enough to save lives that are already being lost. The best-case scenario that a lot of us in the US see coming is that there is only a lot of death and suffering before the government gets their [curse word] together. A plausible worse-case scenario is that America slips out of the sphere of developed countries, in whole or in part. We're sure as hell not optimistic that the US government is going to set up infrastructure to transition comfortably to a post-employment economy -- though popular videos like this might help. (Thanks, Grey.)
Sorry for ranting, but "everything would be extremely cheap and you'd have some money from the state" is only an achievable scenario, not an inevitable one, and dismissing +Discitus's fear suggests a failure to grasp the level of pain and suffering that Americans who are already in poverty have to look forward to when machines come to dominate our horrifyingly unprepared society.