I know, I blog too often on the topic of robots in our future. I only do it because, seriously, dude, the future is totally robots. And that future will come at us hard. Our robot future is like an earthquake in the ocean that has already created the conditions for our tsunami. Now we’re just waiting.
Anyway, it feels good to know that Bill Gates agrees: Robots are the next big thing.
Some say robots will take 75% of all jobs. But that is only a problem if the average person who has a job is unable to purchase his own robot when the time comes and lease its services to a corporation, or put it to work directly. The robot will work around the clock and send its “paycheck” to your bank account. In effect, humans will become investors while robots become labor.
The people who can’t afford to have an ownership interest in a robot might have problems. But that assumes our social safety nets stay at pre-robot levels. That seems unlikely. If corporations experience tenfold increases in productivity because of robots, and equally impressive increases in profits, one can imagine that for every human taxpayer there might someday be fifty humans living off the government. In our current pre-robot economy, that math doesn’t work. But once productivity shoots to the moon, thanks to our robot economy, every part of society will change. Today a human might resent paying taxes to support another jobless, able-bodied human. In the future, people who have actual jobs might be a rarity. And one business-owner with a fleet of robots might earn so much money that supporting a million unemployed people doesn’t feel like a burden. I can imagine business taxes approaching 95% and no one complaining because the remaining 5% is more than Exxon’s total earnings today.
The robot future is fundamentally unpredictable. But a good start is assuming all straight-line predictions are incorrect. The prediction of massive unemployment assumes nothing much changes except that a robot applies for your job, figuratively speaking. On day one that might be true. Ten years later, every human social structure will be totally transformed.
If you hate big government, robots are the solution. Someday technology will make just about every current function of government irrelevant, and the size and scope of government will shrink as a result. For example, when robots start doing all of the medical research, the speed of discoveries will increase a hundredfold. Robots will simply try every idea until someday there is a cheap pill that keeps your body young and healthy. The government will get out of the healthcare field when the cost of medical services becomes trivial, and I think robots will get us there. Your family robot will be more qualified than any human doctor. He’ll also do the cooking and shopping so you eat healthy. And once you are free of the need for a job you might have time to exercise.
Eventually schools will disappear because education will seem pointless to the folks who expect to be unemployed for life. I’m not sure humans in the future will have any need to read or do basic math. Those functions will be built into our bodies, cyborg-style, or handled by our environment.
Long term, robots will discover some sort of feel-good drug to keep the human population entertained and out of the way. Someday, when aliens visit Earth, the aliens will discover that we are the crack house of the universe. They will laugh and laugh until our robots slaughter them, find the coordinates of their home planet from their ship computer and conquer it for resources.
A lot of things will change in our robot future, but we’ll still be a bad-ass planet.