What to Worry About

Bill Neinast


The current hysteria is misdirected.  The fear of the day is that life on earth is doomed because the climate is changing.

This is reminiscent of the flatlanders of Christopher Columbus’ day.  That is when everyone knew the world was flat because you could see the horizon was a straight flat line with just the black void of space beyond.

The flatlanders of today sit in air-conditioned buildings and appear oblivious of  history.  There is never a discussion of why three ice ages were melted away by the climate changing. The Dust Bowl in the 1920s and 30s when heat records were set that have not been broken is ignored.

What these worriers should be concentrating on is the more realistic threat of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Huh?  How can having things done by robots be a threat?

Just get a glass of ice chilled water, relax in an easy chair in an artificially cooled or heated room, and think about it.

Infant robots are already around us.  What about that Rumba vacuuming the floor under your feet as you relax?  When it completes its run, it will  empty itself and then plug itself in for a recharge.

You will have to get up one of these days and empty Rumba’s trash bag into a larger garbage can for disposal, but that task will probably be performed by another robot in the near future.

Then go outside and watch your robotic lawnmower trim you lawn.  There are still some improvements needed for that helper, but if your lawn is flat and properly  marked with guide wires, there is no need for you to sweat and walk or ride behind a larger mowing device.

These two robots that are reducing the market for maid and landscaping services are just two of the smaller devices replacing humans.

Now think about assembly lines of tomorrow.  With the exception, at least initially, of quality control positions, every station will be occupied by a robot.  The robot does not require coffee, potty, or lunch breaks.  When its power source gets low, its replacement moves in, and it goes to the robot dispensary.  There another robot will oil its joints, check its wiring and other components, and then tell it to go plug itself in for another recharge.

The “things” produced by the robots will then be loaded on self driving trucks that are already being tested on our roads and sent to programmed destinations for unloading by robots.

On the retail side, there are already experiments  underway to eliminate the need for clerks.  In these facilities, a customer inserts a credit card into a shopping card reader and, as items are placed in the cart, the cart reads the item’s code and adds the cost to the credit card.   When through shopping, the customer just heads for home without ever having to smile at or talk with a store clerk.

Do you still go to the bank?  Why?  There is little need for you to do so.  Many of your deposits and payments are now ACH or automatic transactions; you can make deposits with and from your telephone, and get cash from an ATM.  So how much longer will there be a need for tellers?

This is just the tip of the growing iceberg of replacing humans with robots and artificial intelligence.  

So where’s the problem?  Just look at all the leisure time we humans are enjoying.

That is the problem.  How will we pay for that leisure?  Money is needed to buy food, housing, transportation, medical care, vacations, etc.  Money is acquired by working on an assembly line, as bank tellers, as store clerks, or as maids, etc.  

If all of those tasks are taken over by robots that need nothing but electrical charges and maintenance by other robots, how will humans be supported?

So here’s the perspective.

If a substantial majority of the population is unemployed and on welfare, where will the government get the money for those welfare checks?

The most obvious answer is that the only source of that money would be from the few humans who were still needed in some work capacity.  Because of the wide disparity between workers and non workers, however, the workers would be allowed to retain only enough of their pay to subsist on the same level as those replaced by robots.

That will make the socialists very happy.

Now that is something to worry about.    



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