The meaning of a job

Robots may seem useful, but they advance unknown dangers to human lives.

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A job can mean many things.  Most important to the employee is that the job pay enough for him/her and the family to live on.  Second is personal satisfaction in doing the job and being part of the organization in which one works.  To the employer it is important that the job being done adds to the value and success of the organization,  Part of this is that the price for the employee is at least equivalent to the value the work adds.  To the society, the importance of a job is that it adds to social value and is not destructive of the goals of the society as a whole.

Politicians in America are always talking about making sure that the voters have or can get jobs that benefit them and the society.  Of course, it is also important that the job benefit the entity that pays for employment.

We should be conscious of the fact that the financial part of a job can really be separated from the other aspects, and we are about to see that clearly.  Once AI and robots become the overwhelming part of what a job produces, the financial part will go into buying and maintaining the AI and robots.  If the money does not go into the hands of the voters, there will be massive unemployment and huge dissatisfaction.  The citizenry will not have sufficient money to purchase the goods and services produced.  The workers will no longer be part of an organization and will no longer have personal satisfaction.  The goods and services may in part benefit the society, but the lack of ability by those who are no longer workers to enjoy those benefits will be staggeringly bad.

What is the solution?  In part, it could be Universal Basic Income.  At least those who can no longer find jobs should have income for their needs and those of their families.  But AI and robotics mean that income inequality will get fantastically out of hand.  The only real solution is to transfer the additional wealth created by AI and robotics both to the unemployed and the capitalists, and well as those few humans who retain employment.

What politicians (and the government through them) need to understand is that jobs for humans mean two distinct things for the workers.  One is the pay and the other is “job satisfaction,” which encompasses the personal satisfaction from the work and the enjoyment of the place of work.  If AI and robotics destroy both of these for the voters, they will have nothing.  Yes, if they have satisfactory financial support, that is something, but just sitting around and doing nothing reminds one of COVID-19 lockdown.  I must assume that AI and robotics will be satisfactory to the employers, or else they wouldn’t but into it.  And it must produce things needed by the society.

One might imagine that if displaced workers have satisfactory Universal Basic Income, they might seek satisfaction through art, sports, and other activities not provided by robotics.  Unfortunately, the danger is that AI and robotics will produce art as well as literature, sports and other things which will surpass human endeavors.  (Wait until you see robots knock the ball out of the park in a baseball game, or write literature that surpasses Shakespeare or art better that Michelangelo’s).  It is very possible that robots may decide that humans no longer have a role on the planet earth and stop feeding, clothing and housing them.

AI and robotics could lead to greater happiness and satisfaction for humans, in that the robots could be trained to do the jobs that give more dissatisfaction to the workers.  But great attention has to be given to the psychological benefits of work and substitutes need to be given so that humans retain it.  Otherwise, we shall have a very unhappy 99% of the population, with happiness only in those few who can afford a yacht or private airplane.

One needs to ask this question: if a machine can do better in any task it undertakes than you can, how will you derive any satisfaction from life?  Let us assume that the robot can produce better art, sports, religious sermons and sexual satisfaction for others than you can.  What will you have?  Will you have pleasure?  Will you have love?  If the robot proves to everyone that there can be no God, will you have religion?  Robots may seem useful, but they advance unknown dangers to human lives.

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