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Robots Are Coming for Your Job. That Might Not Be Bad News


Robots Are Coming for Your Job. That Might Not Be Bad News

Laurie Penny

Do androids dream of a three-day week? This week, Professor Stephen Hawking weighed in on the topic that’s obsessing technologists, economists and social scientists around the world: whether a dawning age of robotics is going to spell mass unemployment. “If machines produce everything we need,” Hawking wrote in an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, “everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared – or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution.”


Brilliant article and spot on!

A meme often expressed by those who claim minimum wages create poverty and unemployment some of whom bring their nonsense to these boards. They ask aloud as if having some great insight no others can have " how can a business make profits if all their revenue goes to wages!"

This types just assume that the reason the 99 percent exist is to make profits for the one percent and if a wage paid garners those profits even as the worker can not afford the necessities of life than " all is well"


Several countries are toying with the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income (UBI), in some cases putting it up for a vote in a referendum.

It may not pass in all these places, but it doesn't need to. Some will institute the idea, and the example will spread, over time. I expect the US to be among the last to put such a system in place (hell, we still don't have universal health care!), but it is still inevitable, because the logic of automation will force it, as explained in the article.


We face Climate Change. Robots are energy expensive. Humans are far cheaper to operate. At this moment Corporate Agriculture, Chemical Companies, Food Manufactures and Transportation of their products causes about 49% of the total carbon/methane load. Robots are on a very short leash. Without Fossil fuels robots die.

The solutions lies here

and here

Understanding the real problem starts here

And a solution that stands the test of 500 plus years can be found here.
Where the Hutterites story is briefly told. While I don't share the world view, their solution has survived strong attacks. Their form of self governance is communal democratic/tribal. As such it can be adapted to different world views that care deeply about the Earth and choose caring compassionate action.


Love this article.

If as Mr. Shermer said on C-Span book fair Sunday, society has always moved two steps forward and one step back, we have good reason to be optimistic.

Even in Laurie's second instance, elites can't keep technology away from the people any more than they can stop hackers from gaming the system. 300 million heads are better than one tiny oligarchy paying hackers to oppress their peers. And thus far, most everyone has the same access to all the information and communications in the world.


This article in effect is addressed to western people in first world countries. There are many parts of the present world that the artificial and surreal existences painted in the author's story are an actual reality. The author barely conceals her understandable angst. The people in these first world countries who couldn't/wouldn't stop the imperial machinations in their own countries from raping other populations now seem on the edge of surrendering to those evils themselves.

This auther had the forthrightness to in effect say that we're not threatened by climate, nor by enemies, nor by overpopulation, nor by poverty, nor by starvation. No, what we are truly threathened by is ourselves. We have the ability to make it work and we have the ability to let it all die. It's up to us.


Thank you for saving me the trouble. If human beings outside of the temples of power had genuine "say" in policies, those policies would not look like war & endless resource desecration. U.S. and NATO military forces only differ from ISIS and related groups in their levels of carnage. Both appear ready to destroy sacred cities, artefacts, art, persons, and ecosystems.

Since the article focuses on Silicon Valley, robots, and the future of technology, it's no accident that it speaks of the natural world in merely one sentence. Ms. Penny alludes to the gated communities that allow the rich to survive.

Frankly, it's the whole model of high-tech industrialization with its manmade imprimatur cast over all things natural that is turning the living world INTO a machine, increasingly. THAT is not progress and according to both Plato and Edgar Cayce, this obsession with turning the natural world into MAN'S image and likeness (while creating entire subsets of human beings to do the masters' bidding) goes back to Atlantis. History comes full circle and humanity could well suffer the same fate as the Atlanteans.


Even with robots, we can not get there with our Intellectual property and pharmaceuticals business. So, may be we should think about Star Trek type Economy. That is our future anyway as I have done some robot software designs including Artificial Intelligence...and think great merit for the planet if our greedy people get out of the way....



Exactly when did the two of you eliminate sardonicism from your working lexicon. The whole article was marinaded in sardonic overtones. And you both grabbed the wrong end of the stick. The author focused on responsibilities as members of a society and not on wonk solutions let alone our, WE, you, me and every other bloody pronoun excuse. Most people throughout the world would read your defensive thin skinned comments and roll their eyes. Compared to what most other people(s) have to endure 'we' USA types should be embarrassed and not apologetic about our civic ineptitude.


Once everything is robotized the .0001 percent will have no more need for any labors and the population masses will be without purpose and destroyed?


I've always liked Penny's gift for getting straight to the point with a great deal of grace and efficiency. As far as the younger generation of potentially useful opinion leaders goes, she's a keeper.

Nevertheless, she's still one major step short in the theoretical problem of late stage capitalism: we don't want to try to save it, because it can't be saved. Literally. Mathematically. Growth has always carried the seeds of its own destruction, and that goes for the communist/socialist ideologies dependent on the magic of the industrial revolution.

GMI (guaranteed minimum income) is, obviously, the simplest solution to a horde of social problems as well as a bucket full of justice conflicts. And most people able to stop the heaving of their stomachs that "free money" could be given to the unworthy can see the clear sense in it. So we should certainly agitate and struggle hard for this goal.

As long as we understand that we have to be careful about giving capitalism yet one more opportunity to f*ck up more things. We have to acknowledge that this ride is over; that we need to start looking at this world as a precious repository of limited resources that we have sadly abused for too long. At least those of us in the West (and a few choice locations elsewhere).

I understand that in the US, any "radical" (however obvious) solution to anything probably has to be couched in the language of "saving" the dominant system to have any hope of being seriously considered. That's a practical reality. So that we all involved in real world agitation will probably have to do. But we still have to be careful about being too serious about this in the circles of the Left. Our job, and our goal, is to dismantle this system as casualty-free as we can and prepare the way for a different future. An automated future that preserves remaining resources while taking care of a stable population is fine by me.

So let's get this done. All of us. Start talking to your friends, neighbors, family and acquaintances today. We can still save ourselves if we try.


Quite right.

What those robots are going to be used for, is as weapons to keep the rest of us under control. (Or as machines to produce weapons to ...)


We (oops! some people) are building robots with which to fight wars. Now if we can just put in a programme allowing robots to negotiate whether wars should be fought, then we can not only make all soldiers redundant, but we might also see logic rather than egos and personalities resolving conflicts..........


Atlantis? Where was that?


Try reading Eve Ensler's article today on what's done to women--the LIFE GIVING half of the Creation paradigm--and then get back to me, you pompous robotic dead soul.


From the earliest days of mechanization, there have been people who focused on the jobs lost or displaced with each advancement in technology. And the reality has always been that new technologies both create and destroy jobs. My grandfather was an elevator operator and my grandmother worked at a switchboard. Technology created both of those jobs and later rendered them obsolete.

My hunch is that robotics will follow a trajectory much like computing. The first customers for computers were primarily large corporations, and there were fears that they would wield its inherent advantages to defeat all rivals and form a computational hegemony. What actually happened was that the large corporations paid the heavy first-mover costs, and enjoyed a brief advantage before the later adopters came in on the cheap, benefiting from economies of scale. Does anyone today think the rise of computers resulted in a net elimination of jobs?

Robots are primarily an industrial tool right now, but the technology will percolate out in ever cheaper forms to the general public, and we will adapt and the industry will be supported by the many things that we will think up to do with robots. And just as computers ultimately had the opposite effect of consolidating power in the hands of a small elite, I expect there will be similar democratizing effect from robotics.

Robotics will not bring about an age of leisure, or a guaranteed income, or the demise of capitalism (if we want those, we will need to accomplish those independently), nor will it consolidate all wealth and power in the hands of a tiny global elite. Indeed, wealth consolidation has been largely disconnected from physical industry ever since the uber-rich figured out they could amass wealth simply by controlling the financial sector, conjuring money into existence, and saddling everyone with a debt obligation for using their fiat money..

Robotics will create whole new categories of real property, and as usual, the bankers will rig the game so that a hefty chunk of all created wealth will go into their own pockets. Want to liberate humanity? Replace the bankers with robots.


Robots are made of irreplaceable materials (NRR,as Clugston points out in "Scarcity: Humanity's Final chapter?") so the robotic age is unsustainable. In contrast, humans are reproducing so they will have to get back to producing their needs themselves!


"The logic is solid: if nobody can afford to buy the goods and services all these robots are producing, global markets will collapse".

This is true but not a necessary outcome. I still don't see why this can't work in a (true) capitalist framework. Consider this: With robots producing goods, let say they can churn them out for a 1/10 of what a human would cost (it can't be 0 because you still have to pay for raw materials, distribution, advertizing, etc). Now those robots have displaced many (but not all) people, So lets suppose that we divvy up the work so that on average people work 1 day of the week. There's no point for any company to churn out goods that no-one can buy - so prices must surely fall to the point where supply meets demand, which will surely be close to the production cost or slightly above. In order for this to work, people have to be convinced that they can indeed affford the same (or in this case more) things they could before working less time, but I dont see why it means the end of capitalism (which again I point out is not the same as Koch capitalism, but true capitalism in which a large number of vendors compete to supply a product)