AI, robotics and automation in general have for decades severely affected society in general and the labor market in particular. In the near future, labor itself and the laborer will cease to be one of the more important productive forces that they are today. The time has come to consider what kind of future we want.
Technology destroys some jobs and creates others. So far both trends have been somewhat balanced. Many jobs of the past have disappeared while new ones have been created. The barcode boosted world trade, creating millions of new jobs. Others have disappeared, and to put out one of the innumerable examples there are, banking related jobs are rapidly dwindling.
The pace of job creation is not enough to counteract the destruction generated by automation. To think that we will have millions of technological jobs is delusional. When Facebook bought WhatsApp, this company had 50 employees. Can we create new jobs with such a model? The reality is that the annual hours worked in every country do not stop decreasing.
Technology is good and has helped create a better world, where by and large all indicators of societal well-being showing positive trends. Improvements have been made in overall health, life expectancy, education, crime and violence, global GDP, wealth, equality and democracy, putting forward some of the most relevant examples.
Work has ceased to be what it was. People want to work by the income they report, but very few are remunerated by such. Freeing millions of people from routine or painful jobs is good as long as economic conditions do not worsen. Millions of people live on subsidies and the universal basic income is an alternative that advances with strength.
Meanwhile, inequality is increasing: The owners of automation are getting richer and 1% of the world population has as many resources as the remaining 99%. This is unacceptable, both morally and economically.
If we don’t work in the future, what will we do with our lives? Some will have answers, but many won’t. It is essential to consider the new educational challenges. We cannot train our young people for a world that no longer exists. Being free requires effort and a plan. We cannot delay this any longer.