Politics of an Automated World

That our world is becoming more and more automated is a reality that cannot be denied.  As companies seek to make themselves more competitive, the inevitability of a fully automated workforce becomes more certain with each passing year.

An automated production line can be run twenty-four hours a day.  Machines do not agitate for better working conditions – nor do they demand a higher wage.

Our generation is very close to witnessing an economy where all traditional blue-collar jobs (and many white-collar jobs) will be eliminated by the use of new technology, automation, artificial intelligence, and robotic workers.

All sorts of human occupations will be taken over by automation in very short order.  Many careers thought to be exempt from this trend are actually only temporarily safe.

The kitchen workers  who prepare meals in restaurants will be replaced by intelligent machines that make burgers, salads, or even more complicated meals with exacting precision and minimal waste.

Customer service representatives, sales clerks, receptionists, and information desks can all be replaced (in one fashion or another) by automated robocalls and sales or information kiosks.

Supermarkets will be fully automated, as will the delivery of products.  In fact, most shopping in the future will be conducted online and will be delivered by robotic drones.  That’s why Amazon is in the drone development business as part of its strategy for being the default online marketplace.

Uber and Lyft have displaced taxi dispatchers and are gaining a stranglehold over the car service industry worldwide.  In the very near future, self-driving robotic cars will be dispatched through companies like Uber or Google to service customers who electronically hailed them.  These companies will likely dominate a transportation system that will eliminate the need for personal cars.  In fact, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to expect that human-driven cars will be banned from many municipalities within the next few decades.  Some people have predicted that  children born today will never drive a car.

Soon all trucking and shipping will be fully automated, but those industries won’t be the only ones with an automated future.  Doctors, lawyers, designers — and even artists and writers will all be replaced by their electronic betters.  Even prostitutes will find competition as no trade will go unchallenged.

Automation already dominates many types of manufacturing — it is not wrong to suppose that all manufacturing will be done by machines in the near future.  In fact, the machines themselves will be made by other machines.  Artificial intelligence and advanced computers will be charged with designing new automated machines and even the next generations of artificial intelligence and computing.

The proposition that these events will occur is completely uncontroversial based on the state of current technology and the rate of technological advancement in recent years.

What will all this rapid change mean for people?  Some propose that people be given a universal basic income in order to more fairly distribute the wealth generated by an automated world.  This sort of arrangement may come about but not necessarily to share the wealth equally as many might imagine.  It will be given to keep people from rioting.

All sorts of economic arrangements may be tried as humanity transitions into a world run by machines – but what will the politics look like in an automated world?

Will the proletariat rise up and violently overthrow the rule of the bourgeoisie?  Will the means of production be run by the workers in a classless society?  Will Marx’s fantasy finally be realized?  No.  Experience has shown that both during and after communist revolutions, new ruling classes come to power even as the old ruling classes are put to death.

Human nature is such that people will always seek to have power over others.  In a socialist or communist system, the leaders of the revolution will simply become the new masters controlling the means of production.

Whether the political system of the future is socialist, communist, capitalist, or some type of feudalistic throwback, there will only be two classes of people:

  • Those who own the machines
  • Those who do not

The people who own the machines (or at least control them) will have a complete stranglehold on the creation of true wealth.  As time progresses, they will achieve absolute control over the political system.  Should they be overthrown, the people leading the revolution would simply replace the old owners.  Those positions held by the former ruling elite would not be eliminated.

The people who do not own the machines will likely barter their peaceful cooperation for a government stipend.  The continued existence of this lower class will always be a potential danger to those who control of the automated world.

Based on this analysis, I predict that the political order of the future will likely include these elements:

  • A universal basic income set as low as the machine owners can arrange
  • A one-child policy that includes bonus payments for voluntary sterilization
  • An increase in the basic income for those willing to give up their voting rights

By the way, the automated soldiers that will maintain order in the future are already being designed, built, and tested.

  • Fardar McHarhar

    Yeah, maybe… hu nose? =:~/

  • Fardar McHarhar

    So, let me see if I understand this: Mass unemployment will occur in pursuit of an order-of-magnitude lowering of production costs, thereby enabling all these unemployed people to buy the products? What am I not understanding? So, is this article simply some back-door argument for a “guaranteed minimum income”? That is, to keep the machines moving? Seems that all the cool kids, I mean futurists, have their own vision of some apocalyptic future. But what are the dynamics? What are the key thresholds, inflection points, etc.?

    • You may be the only person on the planet that would refer to me as a “cool kid.”