Dear 100 Hour Board,
What might our daily lives, society, and government look like while (and after) adapting to robots replacing the majority of our jobs?
I really love that video, and it poses interesting questions about the future, but according to some recent research by BYU Sociology professor Eric Dahlin, robots are actually increasing the amount of jobs. We can't tell how long this trend will continue into the future, but data from the past few years suggests that this trend of increasing jobs through automation will continue at least for sometime.
If you think about it, this makes sense. The industrial revolution took jobs from artisans and farmers and gave jobs to factory workers. Automation is removing factory jobs but creating coding, engineering, and repair technician jobs. Eventually these jobs might be replaced entirely by robots, but I seriously doubt it. Robots are a very complicated and expensive, and even with supercomputers and AI, there are a lot of jobs that haven't been replaced by robots. Take kindergarten teachers, for example. There's no way we create a robot that can handle the variety of tasks they do as well as they do anytime soon.
I think that even if we transition to an all-robot economy, the transition will be smooth because it will be gradual. Hopefully this will allow for time to figure things out without ending up in some apocalypse scenario. We've survived massive change before and I feel like we'll be equipped to handle it again.
As a preview to my answer, I'm going to list some of my credentials to address it. I do this because while for most questions that come in the inbox, I'm neither particularly worse nor better qualified to answer than any other average person with access to the internet, but for this question, I do happen to have quite a bit of background. I know more about economics, and economic implications than your average person because I studied economics up to a graduate level as an undergrad. And for the automation itself, that is literally what I do for my job, and what I studied in my major at BYU. I am one of the automators.
The video you linked to has some valid points, and some invalid, or simply skewed points. To say we should be concerned about what will happen to people during a quick transition of technology is valid. Dr. Price at BYU has conducted research into how job loss actually shortens people's lifespans because it is so stressful. And job loss can be one of the side effects of rapid adoptions of new technology. To make matter worse, oftentimes the people who are laid off don't have the requisite skills to enter into other areas of the workforce, making them unemployable. This is a problem. And as technology continues to progress, it is going to happen. However, I don't think that that jobs that could be taken over by technology are changing fast enough to create job loss on the scale described in the video.
First of all, even if there are prototypes out there that work for single demonstrations, that's a far cry from being ready for general production. Something the video doesn't acknowledge is that while automations don't have the same problems as humans, they have their own set of problems. For one, they're all eventually going to break down someday. For something like a microwave, that isn't too distressing. Yeah, it's annoying to have to replace, but it's not dangerous. Now consider a self driving car suddenly breaking down. This has a lot of potential to be dangerous. Yes, machines are more reliable than humans, but what about when they malfunction? What's the backup? For every single kind of machine that gets put into production, there are going to be malfunctions. The worse the consequences of a malfunction are, the more contingencies have to be in place.
Once the automations are ready and safe to be put into production, it takes a lot of time for new technology to filter into companies. Even if the automations are more cost effective, companies might not have the money to purchase/produce them immediately.
With all this time for new technology to actually permeate the market is going to come transition of the nature of jobs. Yes, what people do will be different, but around the technology, new jobs will naturally arise. Now, whether enough new jobs will arise is another question that bears a lot of research.
Man, I am going to be so relaxed and have so much free time! Someone to do all my work for me? That sounds like a dream!
I'm not very imaginative when it comes to thinking about robots affecting the government, but I can think about how it would affect my job. Spoiler alert, it wouldn't! But that's because I'm part of the minority.
As much as FamilySearch wants you to believe, family history cannot be completed by robots calculating algorithms. The record hints found on your ancestors are mediocre at best. They focus on the name of the person, but don't focus on the place or relationships of the person. Which is a huge flaw and I've had to click 'not a match' more times than I hoped.
As you go back to the 18th century, English is not even legible to the average person. According to one of my genealogy professors, they have been making strides to try and have robots try to read and transcribe old English handwriting. But there's been several flaws, as each document has variations for different letters. I had to take a class that taught me how to read documents in secretary hand like this...
Then they introduce other types of script and periodically get harder if they're water damaged, faded, or have ink splatters on them. Plus spelling wasn't standardized back then!
So technically robots could replace my job, it would be expensive and inefficient as we'd need someone to verify the accuracy of the robots' work. Plus you need a human brain to analyze multiple sources together and weigh which one is more reliable than others. With those sources, they need to see which of the four John Elliotts was the correct John Elliott who married Elizabeth Smith... and they all happened to live in the same city at the same time.
Yay! I'm not going to lose my job! Even in the Millennium!
But I agree with Guesthouse, I would be all in for the extra time. More time for naps! And 100 Hour Board parties!