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The Employment-Based Economy WILL Soon Fail: What Can We do to Avoid Disaster?

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Let’s look at what we know for sure:

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) will soon surpass human ability to complete complex tasks. Right now, AI could do over 50% of all paid tasks better than humans using currently available technology.
  2. In about 20-30 years, artificial intelligence will be able to tackle brand new jobs created by technological job displacement. This is because we predict human-level machine intelligence will emerge by then. This artificial intelligence, with an intellectual capacity equal to or better than a human being, combined with robotics and connected to the internet, will be more productive than any human worker. Thus, to maintain their competitive edge in productivity, companies will inevitably use a maximum amount of the most advanced artificial workforce as possible.

Since AI can already accomplish 50% of the tasks at our jobs better than we can, and we’ll reach 100% within the next 30 years, now is a good idea to start thinking about the future of work. Many experts are discussing this topic, but most of what I read from the experts argue how to keep employees at work. Most experts are trying to find strategies that will maintain the current employment-based economy alive and well, when in fact, it cannot survive this generation.

Instead of trying to keep things as they always been, we must plan for a world where our productivity doesn’t depend on human workers at all. We should design a better future for our society.

We must figure out how we’ll manage our economy using automation, taking the human being out of the productivity part of the economy.

An economy is how we produce, manage and consume available resources. We produce using available natural resources using the machine and human effort. We became increasingly more productive by leveraging incrementally more sophisticated and efficient machines over the years. We manage using management experts supported by computers. We became more capable of managing resources thanks to improvements in computing power and the development of expert software. The only part that humans care about is the consumption aspect of the economy. The reason we work so hard to produce and manage our resources is to consume.

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As part of managing our scarce resources, our society has created currencies, which has allowed us to distribute resources based on how much each has contributed to its production and management.

artificial intelligence

So, when human beings become a hindrance to the efficient production and management of natural resources, we’re best not being involved.

As bewildering as it may sound, self-learning artificial intelligence combined with actuators (robotics, automated machines, arms, legs, wheels, etc.) can replace every worker on the planet if we attempt to change how we do things on a fundamental level. We can prepare for an economy that is massively more productive than it is now, using available technologies, without human beings being part of the process. Intelligent learning software will soon be able to do all human tasks, including invention, repair, resource gathering, transportation. Thus, these automated learning systems will maintain and improve upon any complex supply chain that will allow us, humans, to consume anything we may desire without missing out on anything or destroying our environment.

Our role in such an economy would only be consumed.

We are the problem

As much as this sounds like science fiction, this level of technology is already available today for some supply chains. Established companies are already 100% automated. If I use the agriculture supply chain as an example, companies already exist that specialize in building 100% automated farms, 100% automated bulk food transportation, 100% automated grocery stores and 100% automated home delivery. For now, these companies and services are not connected with each other, but these companies will make waves in the market and through consumer demand and a concern to keep costs low and revenues high, they’ll become fully integrated to one another. Food from farm to table without involving a single human being is possible today. Imagine 10, 20, 30 years from now… Other industries and supply chains are at a similar stage of development already.

Our issue is we need our jobs to survive. We dislike these robots and AI because their presence risks our livelihoods. That’s scary. Our livelihoods depend on us being part of the supply chains or at least the services. 70% of all North American jobs are service jobs nowadays or related to the services. Surely, we’ll get to keep those jobs to feed the family, right? Nope. Service jobs, just like most other jobs exist to keep us more productive. Some are for entertainment and for those we don’t want a robot to serve us, so there is a demand for human beings here and there, but not nearly enough to keep an entire employment-based economy rolling when everything else becomes automated for maximum efficiency.

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I wrote an article a few months ago about the future of work in 2040 that describes how human beings will serve a social purpose in this transition period and beyond. The modern economy is based on supply and demand, and if there is a demand for humans at the ready, there will be a supply available to serve. The important thing to remember is that there won’t be enough of those “human only” service jobs available to keep our economy afloat.

artificial intelligence

If we don’t plan to integrate automated systems alongside freeing humanity from work slavery, automation will hurt many as it unavoidably takes over nearly all cash-valued tasks.

A Brand-New Economy

It will take radical thinking and massive socio-economic changes to transition from an employment-based economy to a consumption-based economy. I prefer to call the latter a human-centric economy because at this time of redesign, might as well think about what we fundamentally want and need: food, shelter, security and a way to take part in society.

While employment has historically been a useful tool to distribute food, shelter, and security to people, and has done well at giving most of us meaning in society, we are not born to be employees.

Biologically, we’re built for one thing: to feel. Everything we do is to feel joy and to avoid negative emotions. It is what drives all our actions, all the time. Our bodies consume food to keep us alive and to give us the energy to feel our environment. We strive to enjoy life as much we can by engaging in entertaining activities, we eat some more to recuperate lost energy and repair cellular damage. When we feel tired and our body needs to regenerate, we sleep. We socialize, play, volunteer our time, have families, all because we feel like doing so.

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That’s all we are.

We design robots and artificial intelligence to do things we don’t want to do, and to manage the economy so we can be free to feel our environment and the universe.

Since we have the tools to make this place a virtual paradise where we can, for the first time in human history, be free to be what we are, shouldn’t we be making efforts to building this future for ourselves?

Creating a new economy means mobilizing the government to work with the private sector to automate all supply chains. As we’re working on that over the next few years, the government must ensure all citizens have basic needs met. This means our leaders must ensure all people have access to food, shelter, security, healthcare, and education during the transition. A universal basic income program would be a great way to get us on the road towards a future without work.

Then, when enough automated systems are in place, self-repairing and self-sustaining, we can do away with companies, money and any other constraint that prevents us from being truly free from forced labor.

How long and how tumultuous our lives will be between now and then depends on us waking up to the truth: we can and should do this.

The sooner the better.

For more information on how to build a human-friendly future, read “Engineering Paradise: Are You Ready?”

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Sylvain Rochon
Sylvain is an international keynote speaker, futurist, entrepreneur and author of the non-fiction book "Engineering Paradise: Are You Ready?". As an entrepreneur, he supports and runs entertainment technology, digital media and international infrastructure funding businesses with multiple partners from around the world. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry, chemical engineering and education from the University of Ottawa, Canada, has taught from high school to university for over 20 years and has been public speaking for over 12 years. In addition, he currently is a delegate of the World Future Society, a principle at the Canadian Institute of Mass Communication and is a Certified Master Entrepreneur Facilitator & Coach. His passion is now writing and speaking about how artificial intelligence will completely change our society and our economy through articles, other publications and other media formats like video and podcasts.

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