The Robot Future is Bright - So Don't Panic!
The robot future IS bright. It's just different.
We don't normally think of robots taking our jobs in the most positive of light. The future is, however, extremely positive. We can say that with a very high degree of certainty.
People normally think of this issue from the point of view of the worker, whether employed or self-employed. Our fear is around the commoditization of our skills. This means that - because of a combination of globalization, outsourcing, and automation - humans just can't command the same earnings as they once did. Whether we are employed or self-employed, it’s equally scary. White and blue collar workers are already finding they can't charge the same amount of money for their skills and time as they used to be able to. As our ability to earn goes down, our self-esteem plummets and we become terrified. This fear paralyses our logic.
What not to talk about at parties
If you are ever raise the subject of someone’s job being commoditized or automated, a good working assumption is that everything you say after that will not be heard. The person will not be listening to you. Instead, they will be thinking about how they're going to pay their mortgage and how they will be able to hold their head up in their community. They will not be listening to any further discussion on the topic.
So how can I possibly say that the future is bright?
You are a worker and ALSO a consumer
The issue of commoditization of skills is definitely a very real side of the coin. This same coin, though, has a clear-cut other side and this is where the brightness lies. You are a worker and ALSO a consumer. Whatever job you do, there other people who buy your goods and services. At the same time, you also buy goods and services that other people are employed to create and sell. The two roles are inextricably linked. As a consumer, this trend is brilliant! We have greater, better and cheaper goods and services than ever before. When prices come down at a large scale, this is known as deflation. There are dangers to this, but at the moment our central banks are managing to keep a lid on the economy, even though prices are coming down so rapidly. And this trend is only accelerating. In many ways, what this means is that we are all getting wealthier.
The wisdom of the Uber driver
Recently, Maxine was in an Uber in Johannesburg. She looked at the smiling driver with concern, as he chatted away, navigating the notorious roads. “The old taxi cabs hate us,” he said. “The technology of Uber has made our rides safer and cheaper than theirs. They can’t keep up, so they just hate us”. “Aren’t you afraid of driverless vehicles taking away your job, though?” Maxine asked hesitantly. To her surprise he roared with laughter. “I can’t WAIT for driverless vehicles,” he enthused. “I will buy a whole fleet and they can do all my work while I sit around drinking cocktails”.
NEXT POST: "Predicting The Future With Confidence" coming June 5th.