Friday, April 27, 2007

Where Is My Flying Car Damn It?

When I was a young lad in the not so distant past, by the year 2000 we were supposed to have flying cars, robots, and paperless offices for our disposal as we lived lives of leisure. It ain't happening yet.

We have warrantless wiretaps, satellites that can spy on you, and red light cameras. These things may be cool if you thought that 1984 was a vision of hope for the future, but it's not the future that I was quite expecting.

That future is coming eventually though. The more I think about it, the more bleak it will be if we don't stop for a moment and actually consider the impact that technology and progress will have on the world.

My big worry other than the environment in the future is poverty. Capitalist absolutists always say that there will be a car factory to replace those workers displaced by the shuttering of buggy whip plants but they have to be really kidding themselves.

The growth in outsourcing has shown that capitalism will typically think about making a buck first in the micro sense without looking at the big picture. Here is the big picture that I see happening in the not so distant future. Robotics will evolve even further. Fine motor skills by robots will shatter the world labor market. When we get to that point, computer processing power will be even that more advanced.

Name a position that takes physical labor, and I can explain how a machine can replace it, eventually for much cheaper than the cost of a human. Human services positions are not going to be all that safe either. If you can't out think, out muscle, or out fine motor skill a machine, why would you still have a job? There will be the positions for the intelligent who have been displaced. However, there numbers aren't that great.

It is a truism that half the people have below average intelligence. What are they going to do when they literally have nothing viable to offer in the marketplace that can't be done faster, cheaper, and more reliably by a machine? They aren't going to take those jobs repairing equipment, and designing software that will be created. They literally are unable to do these jobs if they tried as hard as they might.

Those jobs will be taken by the out of work intellectuals who are displaced. Why have 10,000 people teaching intro to biology in lecture halls of 400 students, when you can pay just a handful of people, the very best in the field, millions of dollars each to lecture over high speed internet, which each university paying less for the outsourced lecture from the best and the brightest, instead of Murray who sadly has tenure, even though he is quite mediocre?

We literally are going to live in a world where most people will be redundant. The intelligent, the wealthy can literally gate themselves off in communities away from the angry itinerant poor. Don't expect jobs for rent a cops there though. Machines will do iris, fingerprint, and facial recognition scans of anybody wanting to enter.

It can be something different though. What we shouldn't do is allow a future like this to happen without even debating the social upheaval that is very likely when a large swath of people have no marketable skills.

Well, they can always be retail clerks. Those jobs aren't going away are they? Picture a robot that determines your skin tone, instantly creates an outfit to fit your exact body measurements based on a scan. It will fit perfectly, it will dye the outfit for you, and the process should take a few minutes.

If you are a wealthy person, who could have their yard perfectly manicured, your house spotless, your property protected with an integrated system that in the long run costs less than the illegal immigrants you hired, because they were cheaper, are you not going to switch over?

Perhaps things won't be this stark, but what are we doing to plan for this eventuality? We are preparing for 1/300,000 shots of asteroids hitting us. We don't discuss where technological growth will take us in the long run. We should.