Future Bites 3 – Abundance accelerated

The third in a series of un-forecasts* – little glimpses of what may lie ahead in the century of two singularities.

As promised, this one is more optimistic.

angry-trucker

Most professional drivers have lost their jobs, and although many have found new ones, they rarely pay anything like as much as the drivers used to earn. A host of other job categories are becoming the preserve of machines, including call centre operatives and radiographers. A few people still cling onto the notion that new types of jobs will be created to replace the old ones taken by machines, but most accept that the game is up. The phrase “Economic Singularity” is in widespread use.

Pollsters report what everyone already knows: there is a rising tide of anger. Crime is soaring, and street protests have turned violent. Populist politicians are blaming all sorts of minorities, and while nobody really believes them, many suspend their disbelief in order to give themselves some kind of hope.

The government knows that it must act quickly. In desperation it enacts legislation which was ridiculed just a few months previously.

it offers a separate, higher level of unemployment benefit to people who willingly give up their jobs to others. In addition to elevated unemployment payments, these so-called “job sacrificers” are allowed to live in their existing homes, with bills and maintenance paid for by the government.

video-night-and-day

In addition, they receive free access to a new entertainment service which allows them to stream a wide range of music, films, and video games. This new service is funded by a consortium of American and Chinese tech giants who now occupy all of the top ten positions in global rankings of companies by enterprise value thanks to their enormously popular AI-powered services. (Netflix was acquired by one of them for a gigantic premium to stop it protesting.)

Governments around the world are in negotiations with the tech giants and other business leaders about making some of the basic needs of life free to jobless people, including food, clothing, housing and transport. They argue that innovation will continue to improve the quality and performance of each product and service thanks to the remaining demand for luxury versions from those who are still employed, many of whom are earning enormous sums of money.

It has not escaped the attention of policy makers that a gulf is opening up between the jobless and those in work. Nobody has yet suggested a generally acceptable solution.

* This un-forecast is not a prediction.  Predictions are almost always wrong, so we can be pretty confident that the future will not turn out exactly like this.  It is intended to make the abstract notion of technological unemployment more real, and to contribute to scenario planning.  Failing to plan is planning to fail: if you have a plan, you may not achieve it, but if you have no plan, you most certainly won’t.  In a complex environment, scenario development is a valuable part of the planning process. Thinking through how we would respond to a sufficient number of carefully thought-out scenarios could well help us to react more quickly when we see the beginnings of what we believe to be a dangerous trend.

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12 thoughts on “Future Bites 3 – Abundance accelerated

  1. This is optimistic? :). Well I suppose everything is relevant and perhaps some think Brave New World is an optimistic forecast. Personally it was one reason I avoided propagating.

  2. Populist government doesn’t suddenly rationalize a bail out of the population by making deals with big companies. They thrash away with fruitless back pedaling and protectionism trying to recover jobs of the past. To pay for a population bailout you need an effective taxing and/or public share holding of the companies making money from globalization and automation. This requires a government with vision, social policies and shared humanist values.

  3. Alternative scenario: Instead of upping the dole and offering free technologic ‘Opium’ for the jobless masses the government invents a new job supplying a new need that requires mass human labour and intellectual/creative input and that pays a decent taxable wage that gives those made redundant by advanced technologies something to both occupy their free time, enable them to be fully functioning and valued members of their society and satisfies their need to both ‘go to work’and be creatively and usefully employed. The job gives the highest rewards those who put most value into the work and has career pathways leading to more reward for those who choose to stay in the job.

    In an ironic twist no-one saw coming the job was invented and implementation was planned by an ASI.

    love.

    • To provide a workable solution such as this it’d need to be an ASI. To generate activities to satisfy and keep occupied the inhabitants of the the human zoo.
      There’s a fiction novel in that idea somewhere.

      peace.

      • Do you think that every person now and in the future is going to be capable of working out for themselves meaningful occupations of their time? This will also be something to solve when it comes to continued living with a greatly extended or indefinitely long life span..

        • Short answer, yes. We may not all agree with each other’s choices. Some may choose to spend their entire time playing VR shoot-em-ups. But surely we don’t have to be accountants and warehouse workers to find fulfillment?

          • I can’t speak for others but I’d hope there would be resources made available (from where?) so that I could apply the ‘learning’ I’d done in a constructive way, with others, in joint projects. eg. Like the Maker community for other subject and skill areas other than Engineering.

  4. It’s fairly safe to say that society as we have known it since the industrial revolution is in the throes of a new technology-inspired revolution that will end in massive changes to the current status quo. The mindset of every country will be forced, of necessity, to undergo massive upheaval and chaos may be the end result, largely because the bulk of humanity are basically pretty simple people who like certainty and fear change., unlike many who inhabit cyberspace.

    As can currently be seen in the US and other countries, including Muslim ones, people are becoming increasingly frustrated and are increasingly willing to take to protest to voice their displeasure, a phenomenon i believe is due in some measure to a human inability to embrace too much change too quickly.

    I’m no fan of ‘jobs’ myself but many of us find their sense of identity and purpose solely in them, just as their parents and grandparents did. Suddenly ending that is, to many, a step to far and they will fight to keep what they ‘know’.

    It’s going to take very intelligent and humanitarian leaders to guide the changes that are coming so rapidly and if Donald Trump (current Leader of the Free World) is the greatest single leader humanity has as a society then frankly i refer back to my first reply (to Murray) on this post.

    love.

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