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.

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Feb 12, 2013
You know... A part of me suspects that the only reasons humans don't continually fight other humans is because there are economic advantages to peace. e.g. I don't want to grow my own vegetables, so I'd better not fight the vegetable farmer. I like wearing clothes, so I guess I don't want to nuke the 3rd world sweatshops that make them.

Seems like an economy where robots do all the work is an economy where all people are expendable. Expanded social services are a peacenik's delusion of what would more realistically be a permanent state of war.
Feb 12, 2013
Am I the only one who sees a contradiction between the notion that the rich will willingly cough up huge amounts of money to support folks rendered jobless by robots and the notion that the robot economy will make big government disappear?

I won't repeat my earlier objections to Scotts reasoning on this subject. Instead I will simply add a new one: to say that we will all be rendered jobless in the future by machines is to either overestimate the capabilities of machines in the future or to lack imagination regarding how the workforce of the future will evolve. Take someone from the seventeenth century, tell him everything our machines do for us today and Im sure he will tell us that our unemployment rate must be close to 100 % . In the sixties everyone believed that by the 21st century we would all be working 24 hours a week. Now look around and tell me how many people that has come true for. There may be some unemployment in the future as some jobs become obsolete but Im sure it will be temporary and folks will find other things to do for a living.
Feb 12, 2013
Why do you think companies will hire robots and pay the owner, rather than just buy the robots themselves? Hiring robots doesn't make much financial sense for companies. Only government intervention through higher taxes and creating a welfare state, will prevent the Butlerian Jihad.

Why do you think people will exercise just because they have more time? Haven't you seen Wall-E? Or don't you believe the old adage that idle hands are the devil's playthings? Once we no longer have to dedicate a good portion of our lives to survival (work to pay for food, shelter, and toys) we'll turn our attention to other pursuits - and the human race is pretty violent.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 12, 2013
You seem to belive that WE are in fact robots... So there should be (or have been) a race doing nothing that created us to relieve them of thier burden, right?

And we are doing the same?

and they will do the same?
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 12, 2013
I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords!
Feb 12, 2013
Long term, it doesn't make sense for the robots to drug up a huge human population, since they take a large amount of resources for no benefit to society (robot society). In addition to the feel good drug they will sterilize the humans and so humanely (robotly?) allow them to die out.
Feb 12, 2013
I was wondering when you'd bring this out. When all labor is done, non-labor is the activity of everyone.
If you compare the amount of time that is spent on the basics (food, shelter) now vs. a couple of hundred years ago, the change would be unimaginable to that previous generation. And yet, even the poor in the U.S of A. have TVs and shelter and, usually, enough food.
Add the increased capacity to get cheap renewable energy and there will be little reason to do anything other than tell stories (theater, television, folk music, read) to each other.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 12, 2013
Indeed - you are *click-whirl-pop* all in on this robot notion.

Is there any sci-fy you have a particular preference for along this line?
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