Guest Post by Stephen Miller (first posted on CERM ® RISK INSIGHTS – reposted here with permission)
Much is being written these days about the future of work and the problems it presents. This piece presents one way we could manage this constantly evolving situation.
The world is changing rapidly in so many ways, primarily, but not limited to technology, geopolitics and climate change. There is no attempt to assign priorities here; these factors are all intimately connected and affect the outcome in concert.
Our continued, civilized existence demands that we maintain the global economy. This in turn requires that most people contribute to society in order to receive its benefits. In other words, most of us must work for a living, just as it’s always been. This will not change going forward, but the means to accomplish this are becoming much more complex. The overriding issue is the impact of technology on the global economy. It’s only a matter of time until machines/robots will be capable of replacing humans in almost everything that we do, from simple to highly complex tasks, embodying both the manufacturing and service industries. This will ultimately lead to an extremely difficult problem: what will happen to the untold millions of people who have been replaced?
It’s only a matter of time until machines/robots will be capable of replacing humans in almost everything that we do,
Fortunately, there is at least one mitigating strategy: Limit, or manage, the actual implementation of technology. Just because we are able to replace people in large numbers doesn’t mean we will actually do it! Technological implementation can’t happen overnight in any case. It’s a gradual process that will necessarily be constrained by mankind’s ability to absorb it without creating total economic chaos!
While some people will be replaced, robotics/artificial intelligence (AI) will also be able to assist us, allowing people to be able to maintain their jobs/occupations. This won’t happen by accident; it will require a concerted effort on the part of government, business and industry to achieve it through careful management strategies. Those people replaced could be re-trained to work in other, possibly newly-created areas, for example. New opportunities are already beginning to appear as a result of “green” industries, such as wind/solar energy production. Many more are sure to follow. We will doubtless be forced to move forward in a way that does not result in hordes of people looking for jobs that don’t exist! Consequently, the development and implementation of machines/robots must be handled in a manner that works for all of us, both employer and employees. This principle will be the key to our economic future!
Issues Confronting Us
Intertwined with this fundamental picture are all of the issues currently confronting us, such as:
- GEOPOLITICS: Will global commerce among nations be cooperative or competitive and contentious? Will there be sufficient global cooperation to mount a concerted effort to address the economic problem in the face of our differing national values and governmental structures?
- TECHNOLOGY: How quickly will it advance? Will there be enough new jobs/occupations created to mitigate the impact of large scale robotics?
- POPULATION : Will it get larger or smaller? Can we control it?
- WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION: How to achieve this fairly? Will we be able to do this in a manner acceptable to most people?
- CLIMATE CHANGE: Saving our planet is paramount; how do we integrate this into our thinking?
- PANDEMICS: It’s now obvious that we must be completely prepared for this in the future in order to avoid economic collapse!
These are just some of the more pressing issues that must be considered in our attempt to preserve our economic future.
Insuring meaningful work opportunities providing living wages for all will be exceedingly complex, to say the least. Some people will always need help, just like today. We will probably have to “earmark” a certain percentage of existing “legacy” jobs or newly- created ones strictly for humans in order to make it work, at least for the foreseeable future. Considering the complications of the many variables mentioned, there is no certainty that we can do this effectively on a global scale.
Time will tell. It will also likely be necessary for taxes to support the implementation of Universal Basic Income (UBI) as is being considered, even now. An alternative to this is Universal Basic Resource (UBR). This means that, instead of giving money directly to people, they would have free access (within reason) to such things as communication, local transportation, housing assistance etc. Again, we’re facing a very expansive and complex mechanism of wealth redistribution.
Will all nations view this new economic era impacting the entire world in the same way and will the necessary leadership exist to take the necessary action?
At present, there are no clear answers to these questions. One thing is certain, however: the very future of mankind demands that we develop a global plan to address our changing world!
Steve is a retired EE with an aviation background. He began flying at age 16, has 6000 hours+ and has been a naval aviator flying AD-5N’s, Convair 240’s/440’s for Mohawk Airlines and a fixed base operator doing both flight instruction and corporate flying, including a stint with the Civil Air Patrol.
He has two separate 4-year degrees: A BS in Business from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio and a BSEE from UMASS Dartmouth. He’s worked for organizations both small and large, commercial and military in the areas of management, marketing and design, as well as experience as an avionics technician. His engineering career includes both analog/digital circuit design, printed circuit board layout and project management. He’s worked in several different industries: autopilots (Edo-Aire Mitchell, circa 1970), sonobuoys (Raytheon) and various digital data systems for Motorola, 3COM and others. His current passion is the development of safety enhancing instrumentation for general aviation aircraft. He’s also written articles many years ago predicting the coming of age of autonomous aircraft.