What do we face? What are we looking at? Is the Science Fiction we read as kids about to become the reality of our world? Are we moving into a culture where most of us don't work, because machines do all the labor? The thing is, we can and might do just that. As I was writing this post I came a cross an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that talked about the same thing, and how we are looking at the loss of multiple millions of jobs to robotics and AI over the next 10 to 20 years. Is that a good thing? On the surface it certainly doesn't seem so, especially when the people most likely to be affected are those with the least to fall back on in many senses. In the long term will it be a good thing to have a mostly leisure population? I can't say. I haven't the wisdom to weigh in on such a question.
Here's the thing we should look at. The apparel industry is one of the biggest and most valuable in the world, only supplanted by food production. If those who own the factories and make the clothing could do so without the requirement of human labor, would they? You bet they would. Their new laborers would work 24 hours a day, requiring no lunch breaks, bathroom breaks, pregnancy leaves, or insurance. Sure they would use the new technology. So would most of us in the same position, if it comes to that.
My questions are these, and they are big ones. What happens next? How do we cope? How does our society shift to accommodate this change? We are living on the edge of a technological change that could potentially alter everything we have known about our lives and how we live them. This sort of change will force people to define themselves differently. For nearly as long as we have been around we have in part defined ourselves by our role in society. If no one works, how do we define ourselves? Are we ready for this change? Are we ever really ready for it? Or, are we always ready?