(Nick’s Notes: You can find the original post here)
I recently came across this excellent video CGP Grey and felt the need to share it:
His videos tend to be well made, and highly informative. I highly recommend of them to all my readers. This particular piece gives an excellent exploration of the inevitability of technological unemployment, that is the possibility that we are now able to automate so much of the work that needs to be done now, that we will gradually run out of work for humans to do. This is different from previous technological expansions in that our capacity to automate, mechanize and robotize is expanding at an exponential rate, far faster than at any point before.
I have written on this topic here, at the excellent abolishwork.com (a site I also highly recommend) and have said that I actually favor the idea of full technological unemployment, or more accurately full technological retirement. That is I would like to see a world where machines do all the work and humans are free to enjoy the activities they please.
Part of the reason the automation we have had over the past century has not contributed to this to happening is that the current system has a lot of policies in place that make the population way more dependent on conventional wage labor than they would otherwise be. The state has made a lot of the self-employment/semi-employment alternatives illegal or more expensive and risky than they would otherwise be. Since so many of us have to work for someone else (on terms highly favorable to them) to pay off our basic expenses the immediate benefits of automation go to people at the top of the organization and the rest of us are still expected to work long and hard to to get access to the abundant goods that are so easy to produce. This is not to mention that government policy has generally been in favor of promoting the 40 work week in the last several decades and labor has not been strong enough to undermine it, as explained here.
Also we really do still live in an economy that is based on scarcity, when we in the developed world appears to be on abundance. Simply put the current system is set up so one has to work in order to feed themselves. This made sense when there were endless life sustaining tasks needed to be done, but it hardly makes sense now that we are literally running out of things for people to do. This topic of this need for restructure is given surprisingly good treatment in this episode of the Cracked Podcast, though it hosts seem a little bit more sympathetic to the understandable, yet still in my opinion problematic idea of a guaranteed minimum income. That may be a topic for a latter entry however.