Jobs for Robots: Between Robocalypse and Robotopia Kindle Edition
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To look at the future, he first looks at the past, and the various other “robot revolutions” that have occurred previously, and shows why this one will be, ultimately, not so very different from, say, the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Similar cases could be stated regards improvements in agricultural equipment, or military technology, or the like. Technology doesn’t really make the human touch obsolete, it merely changes what we do and makes what we do easier; I’m writing this now without the need to hire a scribe or a message-runner, for instance, but a small army of people were involved in the the developments required to make this message possible.
Where I think Schenker drops the ball is is regards UBI, and I think that’s due in large part to a kind of tunnel vision; looking at “the big picture” entirely within the frame of the current status quo in his native US:
“It costs more than our currently failing welfare system” (it costs less than systems in Europe that actually work).
“It’ll mean higher corporation taxes and so will result in businesses pulling out” (which is why there are no major businesses in countries with a strong welfare system like Germany, and is also why countries with incredibly high corporation taxes, like Norway, aren’t topping wealth indexes time and again)
“It’ll make people lazy” (it has been tested again and again and found to free people to pursue their entrepreneurial projects and bring value to society; people enjoying UBI simply work more productively in a personally optimized fashion, unlike those who would produce something great but have to stack shelves to pay the bills).
“It’ll produce hyperinflation” (this one’s beyond my personal knowledge-base, but it’s clear that this isn’t the prevailing view of economists; I expect the reason why has to do with the fact that UBI covers only basic living expenses, not luxuries, so while there’ll be a market adjustment it’ll be a matter of a baseline moving by a finite amount (directly proportional to the amount of the UBI) and from there inflation will proceed as normal. Obviously hyperinflation would actually occur if the money were just printed, rather than coming from the tax kitty, but that’s another matter and I don’t think anyone’s proposing that).
However! While for the above reasons I currently disagree heartily with Schenker on the matter of UBI, I laud his well-reasoned arguments in the matters of job security, automation-proofing one’s ability to contribute usefully to society, and so forth, considering all but two chapters of the book (which pertain to UBI) to be very well-balanced indeed.
If I’d add a caveat, it’d simply be to read it alongside something like “Robots Will Steal Your Job But That’s OK” by Federico Pistono for the balance that’d otherwise be missing regards UBI.
He argues there is no utopia; people will still have to work, and his case is convincing. He also argues against the apocalypse, but with less certainty. Interestingly, he notes two issues that more or less match one part of my fictional causes of future disaster: government debt, in which I include his separate unfunded entitlements. He makes a strong case against UBI, and I think he is right. However, he avoids the issue of inequality, wherein the owners of machines are in a far better position than those who service them. He also avoids to some extent the problem of androids/machines acting against humanity's best interests. I argue in my fiction that there are two very simple things we can do to avoid catastrophe. Finally, he avoids physical/economic constraints, such as climate change and resource shortages.
To summarise, the book is well written, it has cogent arguments, but in my view not complete ones. Is he right? Who knows? We shall have to wait and see, but this certainly gives you some ideas of what could happen. It is well worth reading because if you think something is missing, the way he argues shows you how to insert your concern.
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The world is changing, and author Jason Schenker shares his educated and enlightening insights into just...Read more