The future is approaching much faster than some would like. With new technology, new forms of energy and new ways to live our lives it is certainly an exciting time to be alive. There are however also some developments that we don’t have much reason to look forward to.
Former McDonald’s CEO Ed Rensi has recently visited a National Restaurant Show where he found out that it’s cheaper to buy a 35,000 dollar robotic arm than it is to hire an employee. This robotic arm would be doing the same as the employees. The same employees that are working for 15 dollars an hour bagging fries or flipping burgers.
It’s safe to assume that most people have heard about this “trend’. The trend of robotization, or, mechanization. The idea of robots certainly sounds fun but its not all Wall-E. It’s been going on for a while now and this bleak future has been on the horizon for quite some time. But it’s statements like the one above that make everybody stop and discuss it for a while.
The idea of more efficiency at a lower cost is something every big CEO would get hard nipples over and technology allows it more the further we go into the future. The more tasks machines will be able to perform, the more people will start losing their jobs. Eventually it could become so extreme that we will see human labor disappear altogether.
Human laborers losing their jobs so the company can make more money is generally not something (big) CEOs and other power people lose sleep over. The well-being of people doesn’t really measure up to making money, for most companies. Keeping human laborers when it’s not only unnecessary but also a lot less efficient and a lot more expensive sounds like something a company wouldn’t really have a reason to do anyway.
It would obviously be horrific if billions of people lody their jobs thanks to advanced mechanization. Not only that, but next generations would not be able to get a job either. It’s the lower-class and lower-educated people, the people who simply can’t find another job and the people who don’t have the financial power to be able to afford getting a proper education that will be the biggest victims. The people who are now working in factories, working at fast-food restaurants or people working in shipping yards, you name it. People that are working hard to put bread on the table of their families will become jobless because their companies are more after money than anything else.
And where will it stop? Will we ever see a time when a robot could run a company? A robot CEO so to speak. Where in the end the world will be run by robots. It might sound a bit silly to talk about robots taking over the world but I’m just using it as an example to illustrate how far this could potentially go.
There’s something, however, companies don’t seem to be taking into account. And it doesn’t take an economics expert to see this. The more mechanization will advance, the more people will lose their jobs. People losing their jobs, means people having less money to spend. People having less money to spend, means people buying less. This means that, regardless of how cheaply companies will be able to produce because of their mechanization, people will be buying less of their products because they simply cannot afford it. This could potentially, and would probably mean a huge economic downfall of epic proportions.
Sadly, capitalism thinks short-term and disregards the future. When there’s money to be made, it will be made. Just look at the crash of the housing market. It didn’t take a genius to see that something was wrong but that also didn’t mean that the banks did anything to stop that bubble from popping.
In the end, it’s all up to the big corporations. It’s not something that could potentially happen one day, it’s something that’s already going on. The question is if it will escalate into an economic nightmare. If the wealthy chose to share in the wealth generated from mechanization the problem might be solved. But having a bit of knowledge on how the world works, on how capitalism works, this is not to be expected. The owners of the robots will be the only winners in the end. This will create immense inequality but sadly there’s a certain mind-set nestled deep within the heads of the rich that’s telling them to not back down from making money, whatever the costs.
Stephen Hawking addressed the topic in a Reddit AMA. In this he basically talked about how it’s not the process of mechanization itself that’s the danger. He stated that AI is a dangerous subject for sure and that it should be handled with care. But the real danger lies behind people. It’s not mechanization that we should fear but it’s capitalism, Stephen Hawking tells us. I say amen to that.
For now, all we can do is hope the future isn’t as bleak as it could be. It’s a worst case scenario that will hopefully be shut down before it blows up. It’s important to stay human and to not let money turn us into machines.