Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Robot Apocolypse

The technologies that contribute to automation are likely to follow an exponential pattern, which means that more industries will start to lose jobs at an astounding rate as machines get more and more capable.


Let's say Automation could reduce the number of employees needed for the Retail Industry (17M) by 80%. More than 13.5 million jobs would be lost. The impact from automation's effect on just one industry could double our nation's current number of unemployed workers.

And here's the punchline: automation won't just eat one industry. It will eat many, and it will eat them with an ever-growing speed. 

Our society is having a hard enough time coping with 9% unemployment, what happens if automation claims 100 million jobs in a decade?

Proponents of technology are quick to point out that humanity has adapted to these changes in the past, and that new jobs will be created by these technologies. The historic record isn't enough guidance, the raw increase of speed will disrupt our ability to cope. 

Exponential growth is a funny thing. It looks like slow growth for a long time, and then it looks pretty manageable for a short period of time, and then it looks out-of-control.

For an example, take a look at the picture on this post. The time period between Point A and Point B is the same amount of time between Point D and Point E.

Right now, I'd say our culture is right around Point C.

One disruptive automation technology between Point A and Point B (the printing press, for example) will be a lot easier to respond to than the huge number of disruptions that happen between Point D and Point E. 

This trend isn't inherently a bad thing, it creates a lot of good. And, even if we thought the costs outweighed the benefits, it would be near-impossible to stop automation's progression.

But, we should all realize that if we don't have support systems setup for when the system starts displacing people too quickly, we're going to have an angry mob chanting "kill technology. If we get to that scenario, I only see two outcomes: massive war (and possibly nuclear holocaust) or our very own version of the Dark Ages.

Neither of those would be very good for humanity, let's figure out how to avoid them.

This post was inspired by two intellectual efforts to "ring the alarm" on this concept. The first was Marshall Brain's talk at the 2008 Singularity Summit called 'Increasingly Automated Economy" [video link]. The second was this NYT article about the authors of the eBook, "Race Against The Machine," which I haven't read yet, but purchased this week for my Kindle.

 

Malcolm Gladwell live! | Strangers, Storytelling, and Psychology

Join the legend of non-fiction in conversation with best-selling author and poker pro Maria Konnikova.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to your calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

Map of the World's Countries Rearranged by Population

China moves to Russia and India takes over Canada. The Swiss get Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi India. And the U.S.? It stays where it is. 

Strange Maps

What if the world were rearranged so that the inhabitants of the country with the largest population would move to the country with the largest area? And the second-largest population would migrate to the second-largest country, and so on?

Keep reading Show less

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists solve the origin of Stonehenge’s sarsen stones

Most of Stonehenge's megaliths, called sarens, came from West Woods, Wiltshire.

Culture & Religion
  • Researchers have known Stonehenge's smaller bluestones came from Preseli Hills, Wales, but the source of its sarsens has remained a mystery.
  • Using chemical analysis, scientists found at matching source at West Woods, approximately 25 kilometer north of the World Heritage Site.
  • But mysteries remain, such as why that site was chosen.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Culture & Religion

    Why are there so many humans?

    Having lots of kids is great for the success of the species. But there's a hitch.

    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast