Pundits increasingly agree that we can expect a future where we simultaneously enjoy material abundance and suffer from a lack of employment opportunities. Robots, including software, will replace workers — even skilled workers such as lawyers and computer programmers.
In this future, self-driving cars will ferry us hither and fro without any human intervention from home to, uh, home I guess. Without a job, where will we go? Without an income from gainful employment, where will we be able to afford to go?
That’s the problem with this vision of plenty. Robots will produce ’round-the-clock without stop. We won’t have to work anymore! Yay! Well, most of us won’t. We’ll have plenty of free time to enjoy the fruits of our, uh, well not our labor, because we’re not working…
Exactly! We’re not working anymore, so how are we going to pull down the income required to pay for this largesse of material goods? Sure, it’ll all be cheap because robots don’t need green cards or Obamacare (lucky ducks!), but it’s still going to cost something. Nothing minus something is negative something. I’m not a math major. Calculus defeated me but I know that a negative is not sustainable, not for private citizens anyway.
Government. They’ll give us money to spend. We can frolic daily in green Minecraft pastures while we dine on frozen pizza and imported lab-grown sushi. Yes! That will–
Wait, the government is stuck back in 1984. They can’t figure out what to do with Uber and Lyft. The courts are overstuffed and rubber-stamped. The budget is unbalanced. The debts are piling up. The NSA is running out of disk space, the IRS can’t keep its emails in order and now they want to take over the internet. But you want the government to come up with a creative idea, spend more money and build a shiny, new bureaucracy to keep us all in ecological diapers and 3D-printed dill pickles?
I’m not hitting pause on my iron lung.
I did just get a great novel idea, however, for a dystopian future where a few at the top control automated industry. They have more riches than they know what to do with. Government is their overweight yapping poodle — armed with teargas dispensers and really loud barking. It keeps the rabble at bay outside the walls of the city. A few scraps here, a few clubbings there and the top-hat-and-monocle crowd can enjoy the fruits of their — actually, the robot proletariat’s — labor free from disturbance by the little people, or anarchists.
The masses outside the walls, of course, have created local networks of vertical organic gardens, small maker hackshops and freed markets based on open source technology. They’re living happy, fulfilling family lives in harmony with nature.
Until the bigwigs loose their droid army on them!
I also posted this to LinkedIn, just to see what happens.