Smart machines probably won’t kill us all—but they’ll definitely take our jobs, and sooner than you think.
This whole topic has been on my mind for a good long while. Refreshing and disappointing to find out that Im not the radical I thought I was.
Anyways, I see a couple different solutions:
1.) Labor Rationing.
New software is becoming available that makes it easier to manage larger workforces who work smaller shifts. A way to redistribute decreasing wealth through the Middle and Lower Classes. It could also mean the creation of a 24 hour economy since once businesses have people working around the clock other businesses will have to service workers taking unconventional shifts. This also has the added benefit of reducing traffic on the roads, at stores, restaurants etc.
2.) Worker Owned Businesses
This seems like a more practical solution to Noah Smith’s problem. If more workers owned the businesses they worked at (e.g. co-ops, syndicates, co-determination) then there’s a real connection between citizens owning capital without a government jury-rigged solution. It also has the added benefit of relieving corruption in politics because, in theory, a whole company will have a more difficult time decided which politicians to bribe than a few CEOs.
Jeremy Rifkin talks about this in The End of Work. Basically people can start bartering and exchanging services without the use of government currency. It could all be done informally or through a system such as the Japanese Fureai Kippu. It also strengthens community ties, empowers people, and basically gives us something to do with all the free time.
4.) Government Incentives
Basically to implement the first 3 solutions government would have to step in and provide either tax incentives or possibly even subsidies to corporations self-imposing these reforms. This in theory would be a more acceptable compromise than high capital taxes and government programs. Instead of having government take care of people recalibrate the economy so that businesses provide for more people themselves and in doing so becomes a self-sustaining positive feed-back loop once again. To strengthen the feed back loop of technological change tax incentives could be created for companies that spend more on R&D.
5.) Reduce Living Costs
An automated work force has benefits when it comes to goods and services but we have yet to see a reduction in the costs of some necessities, specifically housing. This may change if the pre-fabrication techniques of China’s Broad Sustainable Building end up being automated. But in the mean time we should reduce people’s need to work and that means cutting the remaining high and necessary costs. Healthcare could be reduced if insurance companies were forced to negotiate prices. Rent could be reduced by providing more rent-to-own programs. Or possibly the rationing problems of rent control could be solved with tax breaks for multiple-income houses. Less people would hog cheaper homes to themselves if we provide incentives for community living. Rent is the one link in the chain that is tying unemployment to real poverty. It is the fulcrum of the capital vs. labor problem.