Thursday, February 4, 2016

The future.

So, I've been hearing people talking a lot about things like minimum wage, (un)employment, working for a dollar, and the claim that we'll always need the current minimum wage jobs we have.  One of the sentiments I heard recently also questioned where the social security money goes for people who die before they can collect. However, most of our simple jobs are going to be replaced by computers and robots soon enough.    CGP Grey laid out some of the basics in his video a while back, and I'd like to take a moment to put my thoughts to pen as well.

Well, not so much a pen, as a keyboard.
The future is approaching, and it's probably best we deal with it. The fact that you're reading this is a pretty clear indication that I don't need a newspaper anymore to facilitate this kind of information transfer.  That's a thing I would have needed perhaps 30 years ago to do a blog like this.  This removes, at minimum, three jobs.  The typesetter is no longer needed, that's me (or the computer, if you like).  The delivery person isn't needed nearly so much anymore, as fewer people are buying newspapers in general.  Similarly, it means no one is paying me for this article.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle certainly got paid for his stories.  I'm not a freelance writer, I'm simply a guy with a blog, and it's reaching your eyes.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Thinking about this in the forward perspective lends us a new understanding of our place.  Soon, kiosks will be eliminating the need for cashiers and clerks.  You may have even seen these already in your local grocery store, fast food place, soda or snack machine, theater, or even on your phone or computer.

That's a picture from Taco Bell's website.
Fair use since I'm discussing the digital application!
They aren't paying me for this endorsement.
I just really like tacos.
Now, let's talk about the economics for a minute, since that's what it boils down to.  When you visit a place (or place an order) with somewhere that has an option to bypass humans, you're effectively voting, with your money and time, that this is something you want.  Ever ordered a ticket online, instead of in person?  Maybe you've used the self-checkouts at Walmart, or other big box stores.  Perhaps you make a lot of purchases from Amazon or Ebay that you could otherwise make in person, somewhere local.  These are all indicators that (among other things, like price) you support a human-less exchange system.  No longer do you need to pay someone to wait on you, you can simply order the thing and pick it up.  In some cases, you can even have a drone deliver it to your door.

Let's jump forward perhaps ten years.  Driverless cars will be here, and will be gaining some serious footing.  Imagine, you pull up your Uber app, and a car with no driver picks you up.  Since the car doesn't have to be piloted by someone, it can be driven any time, day or night.  No person means no salary, and potentially a savings to you, the consumer.

Maybe you can see a problem already.  Fewer jobs to be done by people means that fewer people will be making money.  Regardless of how much I might like to work, if I can't be competitive, I'm not going to make any money.  Sure, there's going to be some jobs that only humans can do, probably even for the next two hundred years.  However, the number of jobs that don't require a human has increased drastically in the past 30 years or so.  This means fewer people making money, and therefore fewer people spending it.

It is therefore my prediction that a sort of socialist society will, by necessity, grow out of it.  It won't make sense to pay a small fraction of the population to work, when the rest of the population will have no money to spend on things.  Eventually, the system will have to allow most people to live in some other kind of economy.  In fact, I can imagine that even within my lifetime, the average work week may well be decreased per person, in favor of employing as many people as possible.  Spreading the work around isn't a bad idea.  Imagine if you could have all the benefits of working, and so could your neighbor, and neither of you have to work over 20 hours a week, perhaps.

Of course, this is quite a way from being a reality.  The problem right now is that we simply don't have as many jobs available as we did in the past, and we've got more people who are able to do those jobs.  Simple supply and demand demonstrates that we'll have a problem.  Factor in various things like inflation, growing numbers of retirees, and the fact that the economy is not designed to not include people, and we've got a wonderful set of problems we are going to have to rectify soon.

Well, we don't have to, but the problems aren't going to solve themselves.  Ignoring this is a solution, one which will lead to inevitable collapse of our current society and economy.  We've seen failed economies before, but at this rate, it's going to be a new kind of failure.  Perhaps WWIII will be fought in economics, rather than traditional weapons.  Do we really want to wait until the last minute to find out it's the only option left?