No More Jobs – What if Technology Creates More Jobs than it Destroys?

This is part of a series: No More Jobs

In my previous post, I said that robots will eventually take all our jobs.  In this post, I’ll cover the view that robots create jobs more than they destroy.

It seems to me that this view is fairly common among people in industries that benefit from automation – computing, robotics, electronics, etc.  This makes sense – those who benefit from automation are more likely to see it as a good thing.

“But wait”, say those who lost their jobs to robots, “replacing a human with a robot destroys a job.  How can it create them?”  They answer that it makes companies more efficient, and allows them to lower prices.  Even though many people lose their jobs because of automation in – for example – car factories, everyone else gets to enjoy lower prices.  They then have more money to spend, which gives employers a big incentive to hire more people.  Workers in 1 sector of industry suffer, while everyone else benefits.

The AD/ECS-37 controlled the radio dishes that NASA used to talk with some of its satellitesFarming is a very good example of this.  In 1900, 41% of Americans worked in some kind of agriculture.  Today, only 1.9% do.  Keep in mind that America’s population also ballooned during this same time.  Even though nearly 2/5 of all jobs disappeared (percentage-wise), America didn’t go into a permanent deep depression because fewer people could get work farming.  Instead, they found work doing other things that people in the 1900s could hardly imagine.

My grandpa grew up on a farm in the 1930s, and starting in the 60’s he helped design and build computers, networks, and controls for NASA that abstracted away the rotation of the earth, so mission control could talk with their satellites no matter what side of the earth faced them.  That big standing cabinet in the picture is one of them.  The reason it’s so big is that CPUs weren’t invented yet.  I don’t think that many people in 1900 could’ve even imagined such jobs, and yet they appeared anyway.

That being said, this trend can’t continue forever.  If I replace all physical laborers with machines, there will still be plenty of mental work to do.  But if I replace all mental laborers with machines, what’s left?  The industrial revolution replaced many of the most restricted, repetitive jobs with machines.  But as AI engineers hone their craft, there will be fewer and fewer things that only the human mind can do.  Eventually, for every job your mind can do, someone will create a computer program that can do it, too.  Even inventors aren’t safe.

And if there are no jobs left that unpaid robot slaves can’t do, how will any of us earn a living?  That’s a question for another post.  But first, let’s look at some other popular views.

This is part of a series: No More Jobs

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