I don’t usually use my blog to discuss politics but I feel I just need to speak out on this one issue. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, Conservative of Liberal, whether you live in the USA, Canada, the EU, Asia, Africa, South America, Australia or New Zealand, our politicians are all telling the same big lie.
To be fair, some may not be lying—they may just be ignorant: a frightening thought in itself. But here it is, the big lie:
“My policies will create jobs.”
For those of us following the current US election (fun isn’t it) we have heard President and Mrs. Obama and former President Clinton say, “Democrats will create jobs by…” We have heard Mr. and Mrs. Romney and Mr. Ryan and many others say, “Republicans will create jobs by…”
As an inveterate watcher of BBC World News, I see politician after politician, from all corners of the world, talking about job creation. Yet if you talk to the average, intelligent person, who has listened to all the arguments, she or he knows intuitively that job creation is a myth.
The fact is that employment is on a permanent, irreversible decline.
The reason: technology. As I write that word, I can hear the political chorus, “Technology creates more jobs than it displaces.” That has not been true for at least a decade, probably two.
What technologies render employment obsolete? Robotics combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Many will have seen the Cheetah robot which can outrun Usain Bolt. There are other robots like this nifty little device that are being purchased by the military. The current troubles in the South African mining business are, in the larger scheme of things, transitory. Within the next five to seven years, mining will be done by robots. A robot can work 24 hours a day, needs no safety equipment and will soon be serviced by other robots. Goodbye to the jobs of hundreds of thousands of miners and mine workers.
The technology that is being used by the US military to pilot drones is being eyed by airlines everywhere. Goodbye to the jobs of thousands of pilots.
When you combine robotics with artificial intelligence you get the Google car that drives itself. Fast forward less than ten years – no more taxi drivers, bus drivers or chauffeurs. As robotic cars become the norm, the incidence of traffic accidents and injuries will drop dramatically – oops, there goes a bunch of emergency service and hospital jobs.
On the subject of medicine, for years there have been computer programs able to diagnose more accurately than doctors. Only national medical associations have kept them from being used more extensively. But the real biggies in the medical area are the tiny nanorobots (or nanomachines) that are being developed to do things like deliver insulin to diabetics, destroy LDLs (bad cholesterol) in the blood stream and a wide range of other uses, even going so far as to manipulate DNA molecules. If you are a Star Trek fan, think Borg nanaprobes. Ooops, there goes a bunch of healthcare jobs.
Artificial Intelligence is used by banks. When you get a letter through the mail from your credit card company saying that they have upped your credit limit, no human was involved in making that decision. Your bank’s computers used intelligent algorithms to decide that you were worth it. Most financial transactions, including trading, are done by computers. The iconic image of all those folks running around on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange will soon be history and most of them will be out of a job.
To put paid to the myth of technology creating more jobs than it displaces, you need only look at computer programming. I use WordPress to power this site. Seven years ago I would have had to employ a programmer to do all of the things that I can now do without using any programming skills at all. As a software developer with many years of experience, I can tell you that the golden age of programming is in rapid decline. These days, software is used to write software. Computers are designing better, faster computers.
In every area where people are employed to work, technology is replacing humans. Even the classic employers in the service industry, restaurants, are changing. One restaurant doesn’t have servers. Customers are handed iPads with the menu and they make their own selections and pay the bill. The food is delivered to the table by minimum wage employees. Another restaurant has replaced the delivery people with robotic devices. I wonder when the first robotic chefs will make their appearance.
This may seem like science fiction but it is not. This technological advancement is happening now and is proceeding exponentially.
You can see this trend of replacing people in every area of employment. Mentally follow the trend and you can see that by the middle of this century, employment will be a thing of the past other than for a tiny percentage of the population.
The world’s politicians must come clean on this issue. They must stand up and admit that employment is going to disappear and do so quickly. The best and brightest minds on the planet need to consider how to restructure society for a world without work. Old left- and right-wing paradigms need to be abandoned, neither of them were built to operate in a rapidly approaching world without work.
Technology will advance and do so exponentially. Will it lead to a utopian or dystopian future? I hope for the former but I suspect the latter will prevail as politicians ignore the problem until it is too late.
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