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The Coming Wave of Automation

Authored by Michael K. Spencer via Medium.com,

The coming of smart machines, a labor force in flux, aging populations and rampant wealth inequality, are a bad combination my friends.

The Robot Revolution

The robo-taxis and cashier less stores are just the beginning of an onslaught that will rapidly change the landscape of all “repetitive-work”. Chances are you’ll be analyzing your job and wondering how repetitive your function is? Chances are, multiple tasks you accomplish on a daily basis can be done by smart machines better than you do them, and very soon.

The Landscape of Becoming Redundant

Technology is in the process of altering in some form virtually every job, and quite a few of them will be made obsolete. However there’s increasing studies and evidence that point to this wave of automation being very different from technological revolutions of the past. This wave is expected to replace more jobs than it can create in the short-term, posing economic, sociological and an existential crisis in the middle class, that could with rising wealth inequality lead to the end of capitalism and rugged democracy as we know them.

Problems and Fears of the Robo Apocalypse

I kid you not, you can buy emergency food rations now at Costco in case, something happens. You know, like a social crisis or some dystopia event. The wealthy are no doubt, preparing for all kinds of scenarios. There are would be politicians who are making their entire campaign around this theme.

Andrew Yang, a well-connected New York businessman who is mounting a longer-than-long-shot bid for the White House. His pitch? The Robo Apocalypse is coming. We need UBI.

A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute, says that advances in AI and robotics could be so radical they would up-end nearly every function in our everyday working lives. That’s comparable to the shift away from agricultural societies during the Industrial Revolution. This will mean the labor force will shrink, GDP could be in decline, while the role of automated Tech Monopolies gain economic and even political power in a new era of scarcity. Hello Amazon!

The Robot to Human Ratio at Work

Those most American companies we once loved that we thought as being job creators, will increase their ratio of robots to humans each year, until it becomes clear they will become self-fulfilling prophecies of how UBI is implemented. There will be the rich elites, and a technological peasant class, that will be like the untouchables. In such a world, global warming will have intensified, and the 6th great extinction of all species on the planet will be well under way.

We will also have great conveniences like electric cars, solar power and a decentralized smart energy grid and incredible advances in the sharing economy, social entrepreneurship and collective decision making on the blockchain.

However, even UBI could actually segrate us and be a stigma of belonging to a new kind of peasant caste of the post-modern dystopia global system.

However, let’s be realistic about the future of jobs.

Remember that report I was telling you about? The same report predicts that by 2030, as many as 800 million jobscould be lost worldwide to automation.

Fertility Rates are Declining as Millennials are Uncertain About the Future

In some countries Millennials are so poor they are forgoing the right to start a family and the fertility rate is in serious decline in some of the most advanced nations like Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

Many Millennials feel uncertain about the future and even the prospects of a labor force surviving the robot apocalypse. We know it’s just a phase, but the transition could be brutal. The imbalances in the population pyramid could be economically costly and actually speed up the advent of robots and automation.

Putting humanity first, might as it turns out be easier said than done. While Silicon Valley pushes ideas of UBI on to the masses and into the political discussions, advances in AI won’t halt, in fact they will accelerate and a whole line of “exponential” technologies that could continue to transform the very fabric of retail, logistics, consumerism, finance, medicine, construction, education and so forth.

In the Robot Apocalypse, AI learns Faster than Humans

Cars that drive themselves, machines that read X-rays, and algorithms that respond to customer-service inquiries are literally just the beginning. The 2020s are when our smart cities truly only begin to become “smart”. The ideal of physical labor done by humans in the 2030s will seem indeed quite old-fashioned, not to mention several jobs we have today, that will go extinct.

Truck drivers in America are 94% male. Men have already been lagging behind women in finding work and steady employment in the U.S. as something called the opioid epidemic or fentanyl crisis has become a growing threat. As the active labor force continues to decline (the real ration of those people aren’t included in most unemployment stats), and as fertility rates decline as well, GDP and the stock market will be impacted in ways we cannot easily predict.

There’s a human price to be paid for innovation and there will be dire consequences as AI itself gradually learns how to learn. In some fields, this is already happening in small degrees. Machine learning doing things even the programmers can’t explain, and the coming age of stream of Big Data optimizing the internet of things in real-time, means humans will live in a word of data and AI that in many ways will outpace them. Humans won’t be any different, but smart machines will constantly be changing, getting better.

We Think our Job is Invulnerable

For many of us, the jobs lost and jobs gained is what really accounts. Most people have been shown to imagine it cannot happen to them but happens to other people. That sense of invulnerability is of course a natural human bias to have. Machine learning also makes many tasks white collar professionals do starkly different in the coming years, meaning there will be less of a demand for those professionals as well. It turns out the Third Industrial Revolution is not all roses and free energy, it’s a time of radical uncertainty for many people who must shift the way they perceive work, labor, salary and even their self-worth and the fundamental meaning of their lives.

Business industries, governments, banks, colleges, hospitals and all legacy institutions are in for a reckoning. This shift to machine learning and smart machines is different than the agricultural and industrial era, because humans won’t be able to acquire skills fast enough to upgrade in any meaningful way. That is, up-skilling won’t be a solution to their newfound unemployment. Neither will UBI be a solution to how they find connection, meaning and civic participation in the next phase of how society works.

The Immunity Bias

65 percent of Americans believed other industries would suffer because of automation, but theirs would be unaffected.

The global workforce will be alterted by 2025, and severely disrupted by 2035. This combined with inverted pyramids of demographies will mean economic hardship, if not downright catastroph in potential global economic recessions.

Beyond Universal Basic Income Thinking

But remember UBI is not the answer, a more radical correction of wealth inequality may be required. As civilization moves out of the fossil fuel economy and into the smart free energy economy, the very way we think of ownership, business, exploitation, equality and sustainability might have to change in order for the world to thrive. Some key notions of capitalism are already in fact in decline among younger Millennials and GenZ onlookers.

In fact, the implementation of UBI could prolong the era of wealth-inequality indefinitely, that’s a serious danger in how we react to automation. You will rarely hear such a position among the pro UBI rhetoric of the internet these days where UBI is being pushed by the wealthy elite. Anything is better than a correction in the fundamentally pyramid where they benefit while the Middle class suffers, not to mention the bottom 30%.

The Dystopian Transition and the Acceleration of Tech

Whether its the Oxford study often cited or the World Economic Forum’s contributions, few academics or reports can predict the future. All we know is that AI is coming and technology following exponential curves might progress faster than our human judgement can cope with which work along more linear progression curves where technological time is speeding up as we enter the era of Artificial Intelligence. Robots become faster in 2022, then say in 2017, by quite a wide margin. AI powered by quantum computers in 2030, are unlike anything we can easily entertain.

But as human beings we’re limited, fragile and somewhat clamoring irrational folk. We do not adjust well to change, and our entire sense of purpose without jobs and families can be damaged and insecure. Rising productivity by robots this time may not be accompanied by employment growth, due to consumerism itself shifting as wealth inequality coupled with increasing unemployment will give way to more social conflict. Amazon and Walmart would celebrate the masses having UBI because it would play into their discount duopoly, but would people actually be fine with it? The Robot apocalypse wouldn’t be so bad without wealth inequality and institutionalized inequality, but unfortunately that is not the world we live in. This is not some futurism article where we show you graphs about how UBI is inevitable, we must admit there are serious dangers in UBI’s implementation for the state and for the well-being of capitalism.

Economies Out of Balance in the Exponential Crunch Crisis

As the pressure for minimum wages to increase continues to rise, increased automation in more sectors will take place. We are already seeing the beginnings of this trend.

The entire way some institutions work such as transportation, retail, banking, food services, grocery, logistics, advertising, entertaining are about to shift so radically, our children will have serious cause to wonder about the world we grew up in.

The demand for high-skilled labor and human talent won’t be found in those above forty who will have lost their jobs. Career professionals even involving very tangible skills will shorten, and so will the very lifecycle of tech startups that once “disrupted” entire industries. A company can do a lot in five years today, in the 2020s and the future things will even occur faster.

If income inequality is not dealt with, it could lead to serious social conflict that could damage countries where it is most pronounced.

As the active labor force declines, and fertility rates decline, some of the driving variables of consumerism break down and economic recessions become more likely.

This is accentuated as the pendulum changes from the U.S. to China as the leading global super power. Trade wars, debt bubbles and geopolitical unrest may also make the robot apocalypse, a more painful transition.

As technological unemployment increases, rural communities become dangerous places to reside. As the robot to human ratio increases and machine learning advances, many humans are actually worse off than they were before. As self-employment and freelancing rises, benefits and economic well-being declines and household debts rises.

Technological unemployment is inevitable and to many it will feel like the end of the world, and the robot apocalypse will feel like a plague. But know this, we’re yet to even enter the age of automation proper. It begins in 2022, as self-driving cars scale globally in one of the fastest technological shifts humanity will ever witness.

Global warming, the rise of AI, wealth inequality, declining GDP, being replaced by a robot, the rise of the robot economy, these are the signs of the times, and of the lives of unborn children some of you reading this may never have, because of these changes.

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