An extract from Chapter 4 of the book Transcending Politics:
4. Work and purpose
The robots are coming. In the worst case, sometime later this century, they might run amok and kill us all. That’s the Terminator scenario. It’s not as absurd as you might think. After all, software, which is the animating power behind modern robots, has a history of going wrong. And super-complex software has a risk of going super-wrong.
We’ll come back to the Terminator scenario in later chapters. For now, however, there’s a shorter-term worry to consider. Instead of robots that might kill humans, we have to think about robots that might kill jobs. Robots may become so good at doing the kinds of work that we humans currently get paid to do, that our present jobs might disappear. The short label for this process is “technological unemployment”.
Technological unemployment is a prospect which causes a lot of alarm. But the Transpolitica vision sees a larger opportunity in the rise of robots. Society should be able to welcome the disappearance of the need for people to undertake work that has often been tiresome, tedious, dangerous, or dispiriting. With the help of robots, we should all be able to spend much more of our time in activities that express and enhance our humanity.
The rise of the robots
Robots have been killing jobs, on noteworthy scale, since the first Industrial Revolution. Weaving machines were invented that could automate many of the tasks in the textile industry better than human weavers. Machines that drilled, hoed, rotated, or reaped dramatically changed the work of agricultural labourers. Assembly-line machinery transformed the work that needed to be done in factories. Word processors and spreadsheets – robots of a different kind – reduced the need for manual clerical staff. And that’s just the start…