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by chazzz @, USA, Thursday, February 16, 2017, 16:29 @ Theresa

I grew up on the classics of the golden age of science fiction - especially authors active in the 1950's through early 1970's. There have been a variety of explorations of the consequences of robotics by science fiction authors. Isaac Asimov wrote several stories incorporating robots with human-like attributes. Of course modern factory robots look nothing like a humanoid nor do they have anything like artificial intelligence. Current factory robots are simply general purpose automatic tools which are controlled by a computer or a computer network - They are more like an arm with a hand than a science fiction robot.

The combination of computer or computer network control and general purpose tools controlled by a computer potentially have some of the same consequences for employment and ultimately social stability as was envisioned for the science fiction version robots. So I think it is worth while thinking about what science fiction has said about such societies. A few science fiction authors such as Asimov and Frank Herbert (the Dune series) hinted of popular revolutions by the workers displaced by robotics in their science fiction timeline. In these timelines, humans ultimately prevailed (over the investors and the robots) and laws were instituted to prevent the economic obsolescence of human workers. Ultimately human society is supposed to be for the benefit of the humans. Aside from that, if most humans are out of work it kills the economic market for selling things to those humans.

There have been unintended "experiments" on whole groups of people in the USA and elsewhere on the consequences of having people receive a survival level economic subsistence without any real jobs or work. Examples include Native Americans on reservations before the casino revolution and subsidization of inner city poor unwed mothers. None of these seem to show good results. In both cases increased crime, alcoholism and drug use were a clear result - especially in the males who came from such an environment.

It is as if humans have a need to perform some work or function especially in their young and middle adult years. Such work can be of many forms. Some people build, repair or create things with their hands. Some people are caregivers. Some people work predominantly with their minds to solve problems or teach or create. And some people are soldiers, sailors, or airmen. Deprived of the opportunity to do these things and earn a living doing so seems to create a burned out mind that seeks the release of alcohol or narcotics to forget the pain and frustration in some cases and revolution in other cases.

No society can long function that does not meet the prime needs of the majority of it members. Automating away jobs without creating opertunities for other jobs to take their place in some cases seems to lead to more war. Large scale warfare increases the numbers of military occupations and burns through most factory production which results in more jobs. This is a hideous and merciless way to balance the books. And in modern times intensive war can only last a decade or less until either complete societal exhaustion or victory happens. Nuclear war, of course lasts only days, but the consequences would last many decades.

I do not know what will be the end result of the combination of economic flattening and competition across the world and increased use of robotics and advanced computer tools such as AI (artificial intelligence). I hope that it leaves ample room for jobs for men and women to be able to earn a living with dignity and only obsoletes the dangerous and mind deadeningly repetive jobs. But there are other potential outcomes that are less pleasant.


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