What if computers did all the work?
C. George Boeree
What would happen if robots and computers took all of the crappy
jobs in the world? Or all the jobs but the most creative ones? Or
all but the decision-making ones?
Let's say they took over all the drudge work and all the
paper-pushing work. What would the people that would have done these
jobs now do? Dumb people? Average but not very talented people?
People who don't have that "oomph", that drive for success? Or those
who just don't have a creative bone in their bodies, whatever their
intelligence might be?
They could, assuming this automated world permits it, live a life of
leisure. They could take up a sport or play games. Golf, maybe, and
video games. They could sleep till noon. They could work on a hobby,
like cooking or antiquing. They could party all the time, drink and
get high, eat a lot, have sex a lot.
Would they look at their lives and say "what's it all for?" "What is
my purpose in life?" "Is this all there is?" I suspect that some
would but that many would not. Many wouldn't have the mental
capacity for such philosophical thinking. Many would just drink even
more, play even more, sleep even more. As long as you stay busy, you
don't have to think about these kinds of questions. Or perhaps these
kinds of thoughts don't occur to everyone.
What could we (society) do about this? Not develop the technology
and keep things pretty much as they are today? Even go back to some
conception (accurate or not) of "the good old days"?
Could we divvy up the work that can't be done by machines so that
everyone makes at least a little bit of a contribution, like having
four-hour days and three-day weeks? Could we find "make work" jobs
for people that at least appear like a contribution? Who would know?
Would they be fooled?
Or would we all feel useless, purposeless, meaningless? Would we all
sink into depression, or become increasingly aggressive? Would we no
longer value life - our own or the lives of others? Would we perhaps
create circumstances that the machines couldn't deal with or
wouldn't "want" to? Gigantic games of commercial competition? Gangs?
Or would we be perfectly content with our hobbies and games? Would
we simply resign ourselves to what we now - perhaps incorrectly -
see as meaninglessness?
My prediction is that we, as a global society, and even as a
species, would simply wither away. Stop working, stop caring, stop
inventing, stop creating, stop reproducing. Perhaps this is why we
don't find other intelligences in the universe: There is only a
relatively brief period during which any such species cares enough
How close are we already to a condition like this? Depressing
© Copyright 2015 C. George Boeree