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Our Robotic Future: Humans Need Not Apply

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Here is a well-done and very lucid video on the impact of automation on future human employment from CGP Grey:

No doubt, big changes are coming in human labor, and coming fast. We will have to reflect, individually and collectively, on where and how humans can create and receive economic value in future economies. The one portion of the video above I find least compelling is the automated creativity section. Yes, bots and robots will be able to execute visual and textual tasks, but I remain optimistically convinced that the real opportunity for the human mind is still the big-picture creative stuff: platforms, large-scale architecture, vision, strategy, analysis, planning, innovation, inspiration.

I think we may need to get more “out there,” more visionary, to compete creatively with automation near term, for one thing, and we must never forget that automation, at this point anyway, is developed and deployed to suit human needs. Coordinating all this technological opportunity, at the micro and macro levels, will be a big task; humans will have to imagine it, design it, and realize it. But I definitely get that this hopeful attitude about the sustainability of human creative value may not prevent millions, perhaps billions, of human beings from one day groping about for their livelihoods, while the creative elites enjoy life in Elysium.

Yet, maybe humans need not apply … as in, they may not need jobs per se. If automation becomes sufficiently ubiquitous and cheap, we could see an eventual dissolution of the current post-industrial socio-economic framework that organizes the global society. It may be, then, that humans will no longer need “jobs,” as historically constructed, in order to survive; they may be able to engineer self-sufficient (off-the-figurative-macro-grid) lives with automated personal energy (solar), food (garden), and water systems that no longer require that they exchange their time and labor for currency to be exchanged with institutions that provide life resources at a profit.

That’s just one possibility. The jury is still out on how automation-driven unemployment (aka structural unemployment) will shake out, but it’s clear, as this brilliant video demonstrates, the disruption has begun.

Author: Eric Kingsbury

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