Recent reports are feeding fears that an increasingly robotic workplace will lead to joblessness, but rather it will simply remove people from joyless workplaces. Robots do not feel joy or pain, boredom or excitement. Humans do. The truth of the matter is that people with jobs that can be done by machines generally wish they were doing something other than that job anyway.
The United Kingdom recently revealed plans to capitalize on a growing robot industry aiming at automating jobs in almost every segment of the economy. Even the United States Army is attempting to replace much of the human fighting force with automated drones, robots and remote-controlled vehicles. In line with this trend, Dr. Carl Frey of Oxford University recently projected that computerization and automation will put 47 percent of current American jobs at risk.
What will people do when their jobs are replaced by automation? The doomsayers cry out that the economy will collapse because too much of the population will be unemployed and therefore fewer and fewer will have the resources to buy goods. Justin Beach in an article for The Huffington Post Canada expresses fears that the jobs of those who are not replaced by automation will be jeopardized due to a lack of “discretionary income” from those who lost jobs. The key here is the concept of discretionary income. What people tend to purchase with discretionary income tends not to be something creatable by technology. Computers do not create vacations that are more relaxing, lectures that are is more enthralling, or movies that are more memorable. Only people can create these things because only people experience the humanity necessary to create them.
Money is a means to purchase goods and services. Before money, people pulled apples off trees and killed animals to eat, built or found their own shelter, and basically fended for themselves. As people began to find easier ways to provide for themselves, they devoted more time to educating and entertaining themselves. Money was developed as a way for people to exchange things directly and save the time of mapping the trade of goods and services from source to destination so they could enjoy the extra time they now had. Ultimately it was nothing other than a new technology applied to transactions. Increased robotics in the workplace will allow the previously joyless employees the freedom to expand their personal economy in new directions, and they will not become jobless but create new jobs they can be more joyful in.
When taking this into consideration it makes sense that more people are creating businesses for themselves and endeavoring to find new ways to generate income. With an increase in automation in the workplace there has also been an increase in entrepreneurship in the United States. More and more people are going into business for themselves. This trend ramped up during the Great Recession but was already going strong before the recession hit. Many of these people contribute in their way to artistic endeavors ranging from craft beer brewing to graphic arts. Individuals who go into business for themselves have a creativity and passion that cannot be replaced with any level of automation.
As society as a whole finds cheaper ways to produce goods and services humans need, humans can spend more and more time developing and producing the things they want. Societies have been dealing with this forever. When automation came to farms, farmers became more creative with their crops or found work that was more appealing. Arts will flourish, craftsmanship will become prized as a luxury again, and more people will work to create the perfect vacation when robots take over the boring tasks of life. Society must not forget that when robots make the joyless jobless the entire world becomes their new workplace.
By David Morris