Automation and the future of unemployment


Automation is predicted to bring massive levels of unemployment, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. What is the solution to this problem? Is it universal basic income? Do we train people to work in the jobs of the future? Or do you have something else in mind?

Fair warning: this thread may become highly politicized, by its nature. Please remember to treat your internet friends with respect, and be sure to follow our community guidelines.


Great topic!

The world seems to be so very “employment” focused, and maybe that was the way things made sense some decades ago: get a “good” job, work it until you’re 65-70 years (or too old to fully enjoy yourself), then retire and die.

Me no like.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy what I’m doing, but will I until I’m dead? Maybe. Maybe not. But if I have to do it until I’m dead, that rubs me a little raw.

It feels to me like we’re transitioning away from a post-Depression, post-War era mentality, and more towards an era of unprecedented potential leisure – a bad word in some circles. But I would much prefer that my time is my own, and it’s my decision what I do with it from hour to hour and from year to year. Needing a job just seems counter to that.

So then how would I exist in such a place? UBI? Why not? If I didn’t have to concern myself about the rent and other fixed expenses, what could I do with myself? What could I have been doing with myself this whole time?? But then there’s something in the entrepreneurial spirit of capitalism that says, “I can make my own way!” and there’s something downright gorgeous in that!

I think, in our lifetimes, barring any unforeseen incidents dooming humanity, we’ll begin to see a hybrid approach, as we (hopefully) begin to realize we’ve been training people to be factory workers, and not to be fully realized human beings actualizing our unique and individual potentials.

After all is said and done, I think that’s the real question we’re facing in the looming “jobs crisis”: what would we do with our druthers if our druthers were all we had left to us?

The crazy thing is, that’s where we’ve kind of always been.


Excellent reply! I’d have to agree, the idea that we have to have a job in order to justify our existence seems like a relic, what was once a simple truism that now has to be questioned.

Let’s assume we did have UBI. Let’s play devil’s advocate. What would stop 90% of people from just sitting around, smoking pot, and watching TV all day? What would keep the 10% of people who are creating wealth from throwing up their hands in frustration at the laziness of the majority?

My own answer to this question, similar to the question you pose at the end, is something like this: with essentially no financial burdens to worry about, without having to go to a job you hate to pay your bills, you can do whatever you want. I like to think that people will tend towards creative or productive tasks, and this will essentially become their job. In an ideal world, I think everyone would work on what they want to work on. Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?

This quote in particular stood out to me. There is something absolutely beautiful in that! So how do we preserve the lighter side of capitalism while we try to stamp out the dark side of potential mass poverty from automation? I don’t have an answer to this one – just an open question. :slight_smile:

This thread reminds me: if this sort of thing interests you, you should read “Riders of the Purple Wage” by Philip Jose Farmer. It’s a short story, available in the collection Dangerous Visions by Harlan Ellison. It’s about a world where UBI and universal education are the norm, and it’s not exactly a utopia…but I don’t want to ruin it for you. :wink:


Show me to the one who has the answer to anything meaningful. I have many questions.

Nothing at all. I think we would definitely see some form of this, but I wonder about what the actual percentages would look like. Would it be a more natural distribution as people slowly found their “place”? What I know about myself is, I can’t feel useless for very long before I go a little off the reservation (which we would also probably see in some spectacular fashion…).

It’s funny, I wonder if all of our attempts to make things “just so”, or, “just right” only lead to further madcap complications. I could say “take down the oligarchs” or “redistribute the wealth” or “tell people to put a stopper on their personal greed. how hard is it?”. When it comes to human nature, the actual “how” seems to only become clear at the very last possible moment, and generally in the most catastrophic of terms. All of which should tell you that I don’t really have an answer for that either… :speak_no_evil:


I think that is the perfect chance to take to finally get rid of capitalism completely once and for all and really start to evolve for real at full speed, focusing full time to improve ourselves and the environment (this planet).
I think that it is the most natural and desirable way to continue and if somehow it won’t be like this so it means that the current system is just a way to keep power in the hands of few and nothing more.

p.s. this is a GREAT topic


I think the easiest path to UBI in America is to do something similar to Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend. Just replace oil with automation. If companies pay an automation tax which gets paid out to all citizens as a dividend then maybe that program could get bipartisan support rather than being viewed as a socialist program.

As much as I like the idea of directly earning a living, I just don’t think that is a reality for every citizen today. The problem will get worse over time and at some point, some form of UBI seems inevitable. I don’t see this as a bad thing. Sure people will “abuse the system” and stop making meaningful individual contributions. At some point, we’ll stop viewing non-contributors as societal leeches. As our understanding of what it means to contribute evolves, we’ll leave this problem behind and find new things to worry about.

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This question had hit me long back.

We need to evolve and let Automation (or Artificial Intelligence am I allowed to include Artificial Intelligence here?) to handle day to day tasks. We can do better jobs, people have to train and acquire knowledge themselves.

People will get trained. We’ve developed our life over a huge period of time. Just compare this decade and the last decade!! We, humans, invented a lot of things and many of them are now being used in day-to-day life. Are people get trained specifically to use those inventions? No, we are learning it as part of our life. Like that the development of our lives or the evolution of our lives will take place.

Long back I wrote an article which resembles a similar topic -

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I Suggest you all watch replicas 2018.

And with some creativity find yourself in their.

Get out of the matrix please


Of course you can mention AI! :slight_smile: That’s all a part of it. I agree, we should evolve to allow these new technologies to take care of day-to-day tasks, but I disagree with the assertion that “people have to train and acquire knowledge themselves”. Why should folks be left in the dust, scrambling to acquire skills that most people can’t reasonably teach themselves? Besides that, not everyone is cut out to code. We’re going to have a serious unemployment problem, or rather, a problem with unemployable people, people who simply don’t have the skills to work in this new world.

That’s not quite the point I was trying to make. Yes, people will learn to use the fruits of these new technologies, but they won’t pick up new trades or skills for a new career building and maintaining these technologies as easily as they pick up the new iPad. This is a problem with job training, not necessarily learning how to use the new tech.

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I am not a fan of capitalism, and the current late-stage capitalist quagmire we find ourselves in is disconcerting, to say the very least.

I think if automation is truly going to kabosh employment in a large way, UBI really will be the way to go. Maybe then we can get on with the whole Star Trek self-actualization situation, but I doubt we’ll reach that in my lifetime.

The issue with job training for new technologies and systems [of what will inevitably be worth more to ‘society’, versus what will be phased out via automation] is this:

Not everyone can be in STEM. Not everyone has an interest in it. Not everyone even enjoys it. I know I’d rather write conversational copy for chatbots, or design UI screens all day long, than ever touch a line of for-reals back-end code.

If AI can overcome the ‘creative barrier’, people like me just really won’t be necessary. That is a scary thought. Humans learn in different ways. Not all humans will be able to overcome this hurdle, many won’t, in fact.

Automation also will phase out jobs for people who need the ‘mundane routine’ jobs the most. That’s…scary.

I hope, in my heart, that people will someday be able to use what small amount of time [compared to how old the world is / the universe] they are gifted through being alive to actualize themselves and reach their fullest potentials.

But an enlightened, highly-educated, thoughtful, socially-conscious, empathetic society doesn’t make for a powerful capitalist machination.

The old guard is hanging on, tooth and nail, to what was and what no longer is working [or will shortly not work].

As Moore’s Law kicks on with vast velocity, I can’t say I hold any real answers, except that ‘Cyberpunk Dystopia’ is looking like the next theme topic of America’s Horror Story.

Or, it will be as it is, a very boring dystopia.

I desperately want to say I’m smart enough to discuss a solution, or point out what we could do, but honestly I’m not that smart.

I’m just an realist who is aware that Star Trek Life ain’t happening, even if I want it to.