Stuart Staniford predicts there will be more robots than people by 2030:
- This trend will continue because it's in the short-term interests of societal elites. The median influencer's life can be made better with more robotically produced consumer goods and with service robots to perform tedious chores (or human labor made cheap by competition from robots).
- The creative classes can have fun with new toys and with thinking up new uses for the technology.
- Ever larger numbers of people will continue to be made technologically unemployed by this trend.
- Managing the "class formerly known as working" will become an increasing challenge. More and more of them will present as "criminals", "terrorists", and other undesirable labels since society is not able to provide them with a meaningful way to contribute (and people need meaning).
- The least disruptive approach to managing this is for the underclass to disappear into technologically mediated secondary universes (whatever TV & video games evolve into).
- However, the traditional cultural ethics that despise welfare/dependency etc will prevent easy/full use of this solution, and the alternative is to lock up more and more deviants and use more and more sophisticated technology to find and monitor the deviants - managing the risk that they become organized and attempt to overthrow the existing order.
- Some people will reject the automation trend and there will be an ongoing romantic/back-to-the-land/local food/anti-globalization/anti-technology movement. To the extent it relies on resources not needed by organized global society, and doesn't oppose "progress" violently or too-effectively, it will be tolerated.
- Depending on how good the roboticists get how quickly, there's going to become a point where there really isn't enough in it for a sufficiently large fraction of humanity. I simply see no way this trend can continue without eventually rendering almost all of us irrelevant. People's basic survival instincts will not tolerate that.
- However, by that point, there may very well be no easy way back, and all hell will break loose.
I thought about this over the weekend, when I held a seminar for translators. I think within about 20 years there will no longer be a significant market for human translators. The only things that will really still need human translators will be high-status but low-paid literary translation, where style counts. As for technical and legal translation, algorithms will probably be good enough to generate near-perfect rough drafts, which specialists will then correct. In 2020, you'll only need 1 human translator to do the work of 100, or 1000, today.
Other jobs that have no future: air-traffic controllers (possible pilots too), auto assembly-line workers, cashiers, non-specialized nurses and caregivers, bus drivers, accountants, car mechanics, pharmacists, radiologists, the list goes on. There will still be a market for some humans to oversee the robots, but brilliant algorithms and highly sophisticated robots will do 98% of the preliminary work and handle 98% of the non-problematic cases.
So get ready for, as Max Goldt calls it, our sad technological future...