Friday, December 9, 2016

Robot Dystopia

The political fervor on what to do with those who would steal our jobs has reached an all-time high. Some want to send the job thieves back where they came from, others support amnesty and welcoming them with open arms. Collectively, we are missing the point of such a short-sighted and temporary problem and ignoring the only fact that matters. 

Eventually, your job will be taken by a robot.

The inevitable rise of capable machines will lead to one of two scenarios:

1)    The very familiar and highly anticipated dystopian future recognizable in Hollywood blockbusters.
2)    A friendlier utopia filled with meaningful leisure time and philosophical harmony for humans and robots.

The way the world works today, the robot replacing you will likely be owned by one of a handful of wealthy corporations, and because the company owns the robot, the savings created by eliminating your salary will go to the pockets of the corporations. Humans will be unemployed; corporations will make more money. Despite what tax law and politicized sensationalists wants you to believe, humans are not corporations, nor vice versa.

The Robot Adaption Initiative is already underway. Right now it isn’t a problem for those of us who are not being replaced by automated grocery check out, self-taxied cars, touch-screen tellers, online travel booking, home-building 3D printers, and automated phone services. But our day will come.

Executives and middle managers, whose roles in decision making, motivation, and budget forecasting can easily be replaced with the right algorithms, will receive pink slips.

Robots will refreshingly report the news as simply the facts as they occurred and will replace our politically biased, agenda-fueled media outlets.

Code will be written to ensure no crucial evidence goes unnoticed or tampered with by robot law enforcement. Furthermore, our robot attorneys, judges, and juries will be unfazed by personal opinion, race, client wealth, criminal intimidation, or bribes. The truth of each case will be the verdict that condemns or sets us free.

In short, our value in the workplace of the future is expendable.

The Industrial Revolution transformed us from a mostly agrarian society into a nine-to-five, go to a job to participate in a free-market, goods for services trade economy. Now, Humankind is fast approaching another revolution. The next step in automation will create unprecedented levels of leisure time for humans. The question is not “how will we fill the time,” but rather, “how will we survive?”

Imagine the life you could live while your government sponsored robot works 24-hour shifts to provide income for you and your family. Imagine the things you could do and the places you could see!

Now (and this is the more likely scenario if we don’t make changes) imagine the things you’ll have to do to survive when the corporations who own the robots grow wealthier and wealthier while you struggle to find ways to meet the basic needs of your family. You can’t get work; robots are more efficient than you. So you’ll join the millions being given basic, government level welfare to provide just enough for you to survive in misery until your death.

We can’t let cognitive dissonance prevent us from making real changes now. “It isn’t happening to me right now, therefore it isn’t happening” cannot continue to be our mantra. We must take action to stave off the dystopia to which our current path ultimately leads. This isn’t about right, left, or center politics. This is about ensuring humankind flourishes as we take the next step in our evolution.

Operating under the misconception this will never happen to us will doom our children. Or our children’s children.

Pastor Martin Niemoller was an outspoken foe of Adolf Hitler who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He is perhaps most famous for the following quote:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Perhaps I sound like a socialist, chanting “robots for all!” I’m no socialist. However, the robots are coming. It’s not my opinion, it’s our reality. Robots are not to be feared, they have the power to make life wonderful. Robots have no political opinions or goals. They only perform the tasks for which they are programmed. The only thing that can destroy humanity is our collective misguided support for those who would use those robots to enslave us all.  

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