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? War?

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 to communicate.

How close are we already to a condition like this? Depressing thoughts.

© Copyright 2015 C. George Boeree