When I was a teenager, which would have been back in the 1970s, I read an article talking about the future. The article talked about a future world where robots would do the mass manufacturing of goods. Where people would have more leisure time, freed from slaving on production lines.
It was an incredible and almost unbelievable projection of what the writer believed was coming. Today we’re seeing some of those theories coming to pass. Excited over possibilities in the world of my future I told my dad about the article. His response was less enthusiastic.
He called the suggestions total fiction and stupid. To even think the article was anything but fiction made up by an idiot for other idiots to read was idiotic. I’d seen him argue against the premise of an article before but I was stunned and hurt by the level of anger on this response. His argument was if robots were doing those jobs who was even going to have money to buy what they made?
You know what?
In the context of that time period. I sort of understand his reaction. Maybe not the level of rancour that he reacted to the article but the reaction itself. Computers were not yet a thing. Some businesses had them but they were still huge investments taking up a lot of room. Most people were barely aware that robots and computers controlling assembly processes had been around since the 1950s.
To think computers and robots would be anything near normal, took a bit of a stretch. To consider they would replace human workers, a bigger stretch. And yes, that question about if robots were doing the work of humans, who would have the money to buy what they made? That was a huge question in the context of the time period.
Here we are, around fifty years later and not only has much about that article come to pass, it’s been exceeded. Robots on factory floors replacing humans are a fact of life and have been for decades. Computers are increasingly replacing humans in many places. Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality are becoming increasingly mainstream.
This is nothing new where technology advances and jobs disappear. Some new jobs appear usually. But as technology replaces humans in a massive way, what will form the base for income in the future?
Will we advance technology beyond an ability for masses of people to even have work options? Society is driven by the ability of its members to engage in contribution through employment, service or business ownership. It’s what creates and circulates money.
In 2017 McKinsey Global Institute produced a report on workforce transitions in a time of automation. It suggests interesting shifts in occupations in the years ahead. In view of the shifts and developments were watching happen, that sounds pretty exciting.
Then I read a bit further into the report and found this:
“Our key finding is that while there may be enough work to maintain full employment to 2030 under most scenarios, the transitions will be very challenging—matching or even exceeding the scale of shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing we have seen in the past.”
That’s just eight short years away. The report was written without the presence of an entrenched global pandemic. As my mind worked over that statement, I thought of the scene with my dad those many years ago.
It’s hard to envision a world where there isn’t enough work to reach full employment. It raises so many questions about how everyone survives if there is literally no work. It would be what my dad’s mind would have been struggling to comprehend.
It was easy for me in my youthful exuberance to just see the wonders of technology without considering the human impact. I’m nearer now to his age when we had that conversation. I understand now his gut reaction.
Difference for me, there’s enough stored and accessible knowledge around for me to go exploring to find out the possibilities. I think I have some reading to do.
And some thinking.
-- Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages
-- Images for header are from Pixabay.com
Shadowspub is a writer from Ontario, Canada. She writes on a variety of subjects as she pursues her passion for learning. She also writes on other platforms and enjoys creating books you use like journals, notebooks, coloring books etc.
She created Prompt A Day to share with others. You can subscribe to Prompt A Day to get started. You choose between the Daily Edition or the Mon/Thurs Edition