Since the dawn of market society, owners and bosses have revelled in telling workers they were replaceable. Robots lend this centuries-old dynamic a troubling new twist: employers threaten employees with the specter of machine competition, shirking responsibility for their avaricious disposition through opportunistic appeals to tech determinism. A “jobless future” is inevitable, we are told, an irresistible outgrowth of innovation, the livelihood-devouring price of progress. (Sadly, the jobless future for the masses doesn’t resemble the jobless present of the 1 percent who live off dividends, interest, and rent, lifting nary a finger as their bank balances grow.)
I doubt the rise of technology obviates the need for human brains and hands. We are thinking machines while the automatons themselves excel in action, at least for the time being.
The bigger problem seems to be the perception of jobs. Most people allow work to justify their existence when really it’s the things we do outside the office that should make us feel needed. There’s more to life than a paycheck!
The machines are going to be there like they’ve been all along, helping people get their work done more efficiently. The bots versus brain chasm is a non-zero-sum game.
But if it just so happens that all we do is push buttons all day, perhaps it’ll give us a chance to do other things like making better art.