Tomorrow’s World — Dystopia or Utopia?
The answer to that question will depend on the outcome of one crucial impending development
The question I struggle with most in relation to the impending automation revolution isn’t specifically one focused on the destruction of jobs , its instead one related to the eradication of purpose and meaning.
The question — which I find incredibly odd that isn’t immediately asked by a wider portion of society — is what happens to all the people?
We are accosted by the thought of what i means if 10m workers are displaced by self-driving cars in the US alone, but to me the biggest question is what happens to 7.8 billion people the majority of who focus on their purpose being derived from work and education if the necessity to participate in either is eradicated.
Population has flourished through the 19th-21st century mainly due to the affluence achieved by an industrial revolutionised society. This has progressively pulled more and more people into the middle classes providing jobs and purpose for millions/billions of people world wide.
This unprecedented thriving of society as a broad spectrum married to revolutions in medicine and technology which simultaneously made life easier and safer, all but eradicating child death which cursed humanity for generations.
This was all supported by the knowledge that the wheel of development and progress would keep spinning. Our children would have better opportunities than us and they would have a better life.
What if that is no longer true?
To take a bleak view of impending development belies the historical precedent of what technology has enabled. I am cognisant of the fact every technological revolution has inspired as abundance of new jobs which more than make up for the jobs loss.
But waking up to smell the coffee fills the nostrils with a sense of dread which was never previously been the case. When the car replaced the horse and car it was easy to see the necessity for the human driver.
There may have been push-back on the evolution from the typewriter to the personal computer but the computer still required someone to press the keys.
My worry is that this may no longer be true. What happens when the requirement to press the keyboard disappears?
This isn’t something that will happen tonight, it might not even be something that happens in even our children's lifetimes, but what happens when it does?
Where will humanity derive its purpose and meaning if we become nothing more than glorified pets who’s sustenance is provided for by machines who do everything for us?
There is an argument for the pursuit of enlightenment — be that education or personal ideals, think of the freedom for humanity to pursue it’s real passions and interests. Clearly some would abuse this opportunity but this is already the case.
Imagine a world where the smartest people in the world aren’t working as engineers at places like Google and Facebook where there only purpose is to increase advertising click through rate.
Is this the revolution which inspires our pursuit of the stars?
Ultimately I believe the likely outcome is that the population of humanity will recede significantly which will lighten the burden. We have already witnessed a maturation of society in the east and at some point in the next 50–100 years we will see the same thing in the west.
With the size of the demographic breakdown of society increasingly made up of over 65’s something has to give.
Pensions are unsustainable when the youth of tomorrow’s job prospects will be tremendously reduced by automation.
Certainly people will be able to escape into a VR/AR inspired world but does an escape to a fantasy world reduce the worthlessness which could become demoralising as the need for humanity to keep the world we know spinning dissappear?
Does a world in which nobody needs to work become a Utopia or a Dystopia?
The answer hinges entirely on our own choice.
Capitalism calls for the extraction of every dollar by a select few.
It ostracises the poor by failing to understand the reality of the way the economics of life are tilted in the favour of those whose family had money previously.
Will a select few automise the world and share none of the spoils with wider world?
Ultimately, whether we are on the cusp of evolution or devolution depends on the outcome of that question.
And the quality of life that tomorrows world will have will depend on the answer.