The rise of AI and automation is disrupting industries and transforming the way we work. But instead of mourning the loss of jobs, we should embrace the opportunity to reshape our lives and focus on what we genuinely value.
Embracing automation and increased productivity
AI and automation are fundamentally designed to increase productivity, allowing us to do more with less effort or achieve the same results with reduced work. This increased efficiency has the potential to eliminate work as a necessity, freeing us to pursue our passions, hobbies, and personal interests.
"The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented." — Dennis Gabor, Inventing the Future, 1963
When we no longer need to work as much, we can invest more time and energy into our relationships, health, and personal growth. With more leisure time, we can explore new hobbies, learn new skills, or simply enjoy a more relaxed pace of life. This shift in focus from work to well-being has the potential to significantly improve our overall quality of life.
As technology continues to advance, the nature of work will inevitably change. Some jobs will become obsolete, while new ones will emerge to replace them. As a society, we must ensure that everyone has equal access to these new opportunities and that the benefits of increased productivity are shared fairly.
Technological advancement and job displacement
Throughout history, new technologies have displaced jobs and disrupted industries, from the weaving machine to the decline of blacksmiths. In each case, society adapted, and new opportunities emerged.
The Luddite fallacy and the fear of change
The Luddite movement in the early 19th century is a prime example of how fear of technological change can lead to resistance and even destruction. The Luddites, a group of textile workers, famously destroyed weaving machines in protest against the job displacement caused by these new technologies. However, history has shown that societies can adapt and thrive in the face of technological change, and that such fear responses are counter-productive.
The folly of preserving unnecessary work
Instead of artificially preserving jobs, we should focus on building a future where work is optional and the benefits of increased productivity are shared fairly. Creating unnecessary work lowers overall quality of life and hampers progress.
The problem with "creating jobs"
Attempts to "create jobs" by preserving outdated industries or resisting technological change (or by attempted government action) can be counterproductive in the long run. Artificially maintaining employment in dying industries not only stifles innovation but also perpetuates inefficiencies and delays the inevitable transition to more productive sectors of the economy. Instead of resisting change, we should strive to create an environment that fosters adaptation and growth. Our objective should be to reduce jobs, not create them.
The benefits of embracing change
"The only constant in life is change" — Heraclitus, 535 BC
By embracing change and focusing on the opportunities that AI and automation present, we can build a more prosperous and equitable society. It requires a willingness to let go of the past and the jobs that may no longer serve our best interests.
Redistribution, basic income, and a liberated society
As AI and automation reshape the job market, we may need to rethink our approach to income distribution. Implementing a universal basic income (UBI) or other redistribution mechanisms could ensure that the benefits of increased productivity are shared fairly, while also giving people the freedom to pursue their passions and interests.
The case for Universal Basic Income
"A basic income would work as a form of insurance: an assurance of a basic subsistence income for everyone" - Charles Murray, In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State, 2006
A universal basic income (UBI) is a regular, unconditional payment made to every person, regardless of their employment status or income level. A UBI would provide a safety net for those affected by job displacement due to AI and automation, while also empowering individuals to invest in their personal growth and well-being.
Funding UBI through a Georgist land tax
One way to fund a UBI is through a Georgist land tax, which is a tax on the unimproved value of land. This tax is based on the idea that natural resources, such as land, should be shared equally among all members of society. The revenue generated from this tax could be used to finance a UBI, ensuring that everyone has access to a share of society's wealth.
The Georgist land tax perspective aligns with the Lockean proviso, which states that individuals have a right to acquire private property "at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others." In a world where finite resources like land and jobs are already allocated, a UBI funded by a Georgist land tax could serve as compensation for those who cannot secure a share of these resources.
Rethinking the role of work in society
As we contemplate the potential implications of AI and automation on our economy and society, it is crucial to question our fundamental assumptions about the role of work in our lives. Do we work merely to survive, or is there a deeper purpose to our labour? By redefining our relationship with work, we can begin to envision a future where our time and energy are dedicated to the things we truly care about.
A vision of a post-scarcity society
The future of work could resemble the utopian vision of Star Trek, where work is voluntary and the pursuit of knowledge is valued. In this post-scarcity society, people have access to all they need through replicators and holosuites, yet still strive to explore the galaxy and push the boundaries of knowledge.
AI and automation are powerful tools that can reshape our world for the better, but we must be willing to adapt and embrace the changes they bring. By focusing on creating a fair and prosperous future for all, we can ensure that the rise of AI leads to a new era of human flourishing.
"Our future success is directly proportional to our ability to understand, adopt and integrate new technology into our work." - Sukant Ratnakar, Quantraz, 2021
Further Reading and Resources
- "Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future" by Martin Ford (Amazon link)
- "Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World" by Rutger Bregman (Amazon link)
- "The Second Machine Age" by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (Amazon link)
By exploring these resources and considering the possibilities that AI and automation present, we can begin to envision a future where work is a choice, not a necessity, and where our focus shifts from the preservation of jobs to the pursuit of personal fulfilment and happiness.