There was a recent call for a raise in the minimum wage, so that low-end, low-educated, less fortunate people - not to mention undocumented/illegal workers - could earn enough “to live.” I wonder whether a couple of extra dollars will improve someone’s quality-of-life. Have you ever noticed that when people win some exorbitant amount via the lottery, they’re often broke a couple of years (months!) later? But I get the idea: we need to help one another.
It makes me sad because Technological Singularity (google it – the gist is that there will be a point where artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control) is coming, faster than you and I can possibly comprehend, and the first people that this technology will eliminate from the work force are the same less-educated, less-fortunate, the less-able to cope folks that minimum wage is supposed to help.
Driverless cars are here. The ones where you type a destination into the GPS and the vehicle pulls out of your garage, onto the street, and takes you (safely) to the address. It probably valet parks for you, too. How does it avoid the drunk drivers, the crazed Mogadishu cabbies, the 18-wheeler with a purpose? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, because this is the future. Fill in your own jokes, but it’s here. And a lot more of this is coming.
Fast food joints, big warehouse stores, and probably all airline/travel businesses will soon be robotic (the airline industry is minutes away from complete auto-pilot, in the cockpit and back in coach where the flight attendant is an R2D2 clone wheezing and whistling up and down the aisle with your drink). There go a slew of jobs, especially those low-income, minimum-wage gigs. In fact, name a “service industry” job. It’s future is perilously close to extinction. This one-armed robot wants your job
(NOTE: you’re asking, “Wait. Government jobs and politicians are services, right?” And I answer yes. And specifically, what have politicians accomplished in the past 20-30 years? Embarrassingly little. The usual answers: universities, interstate highways, space exploration, the Internet and the Human Genome Project can also be attributed to the private sector. The next question, then, is, “So are you saying we’d be better off with less and less government?” Please don’t make me answer yes. The follow-up would be, “So you want robots making political decisions for us?” Now we’ve reached the point where we can talk.)
The future of employment and quality of life looks like this to me: someone who makes a living and survives autonomously without a boss and the requisite responsibilities that come from traditional “work.” To wit:
Particular skills, ones with specialty and a degree of skill/smarts, are going to be at even more at a premium. Doctors. Nurses. Even dentists. Professional athletes. Things that affect the human body, that robots and technology cannot answer without direct help from human beings, will become more essential.
Those people who can communicate brilliantly through the arts - particularly the written/spoken word and visual media - will probably be in great demand.
Everything else is off the table for humans. The most popular music today? It’s electronic/digital-based. Sales? All done via the device you’re using right now, a pitch coming at you from some office somewhere at whatever time, and your purchase is done electronically, handled without cash or any personal contact. Remember Star Trek? It was an example of the first post-money society. Everything done by machine on the Enterprise. Except face-to-face meetings with Klingons.
“The News.” Who needs reporters? We have muzak (much of it electronically-based) everywhere today, so I think the future is “newsak.” Just some machine reporting the facts and we make our own decisions - so there goes CNN, Fox News, and every broadcast network.
There will be a few cool jobs left: surf instructor, ski instructor, CHEF! Stuff that applies directly to human experience.
The rest of us? We’ll be scrambling for what we can get. And as the world becomes more technological and everything manual is done by machine, what are we gonna do?
We might have to meet with a judgment team - and here’s where things start to get dicey, because it might be a computer! - having to justify our reason to live on pain of liquidation! AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!
That will bring the end of the career politician, because things politicians do best - talk and beg for votes - won’t have a place in the future, so hopefully government will make fewer egregious mistakes. The first congress people who have to convince a judgment panel that their lives are worth keeping will be in trouble.
For you and I? In a world where most jobs are automated and done by machines, what is our future? When information is immediately accessible, and you have the ability to learn anything about anything or anyone in a matter of minutes, what will be important? What will keep us vital and happy and give us quality of life?
The answer is in us. The future is about life. Breath. A heartbeat and a soul. What is the future for those of us who are not super-intelligent or athletic? It’s those things most precious to all of us: family, joy, friends. We’re going to have to find creative solutions to whatever problems we’re dealing with, creativity being the operative word. We’re going to have to think (something I haven’t had to do for a long time…). Your soul trumps the machine.