Economics 101 and robotics

Regardless of how our society develops, the important thing is for all of us to care for those who are living.

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In case you didn’t notice, robots are taking over many jobs.  But what does this mean?

Broken down into its simplest form, our economy consists of property, labor, and money. Property consists of tangible goods – everything from diamonds to land to food.  Labor consists of work and services, which are not tangible but which provide benefits.  And money is the means by which we trade property and pay for labor.

Jobs mean occupations for those providing labor or services) so that they may earn money and by that means acquire property (or pay for services).  So, if there are a lack of jobs, there is less money flowing in the economy, and that means few people able to pay for property (e.g., food and clothing, among other things).  So, jobs are needed in the society as presently structured, although in reality jobs are just a means of getting people to provide labor and are a mechanism for earning money.

Robots are a form of property which produces other property or services.  Robots are not people.  They can produce goods and services for the benefit of the society and relieve people of the need to provide labor.  But they also eliminate jobs. 

As more and more robots come on the scene, more and more property and services are created by these robots – providing more benefit to the society.  However, they eliminate jobs.  To the extent that we insist that jobs are needed to earn money, this creates a problem.

The simple answer would be to transfer at least half the money generated by what robots produce to the individuals whose jobs the robots displace.  That way, those who lose their jobs because of robots are not deprived of what they need to live.  In effect, because robots produce property for the benefit of robot owners, a portion of that property should go  to help those who are displaced.

What should be done with the workers who are receiving property produced by robots?  Their labor can still be used to benefit the society.  That is, robots cannot do everything.  We can generate employment for the workers who are displaced so that the workers continue to help society.  Moreover, the workers will feel that they are not “on the dole.”

Overall, however, we need to rethink how we govern the society with the advent of robots.  We cannot continue to insist that people whose jobs are eliminated by robots must work to get the money need for their lives.  If we do not need them to work, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to live.  We should accept the fact that robots may eliminate jobs and that some people may not be able to be employed.  After all, at the time of displacement, they may be too old to learn another occupation.  But if robots displace them, that means that there is still enough property around to support those displaced workers.

I remember reading a science fiction story in which robots replaced all workers.  The only job left for people was to consume.  So they became fat and lazy from overconsumption.  How to eliminate the need for this overconsumption?  Simple: robots consumed part of what they produced, so people no longer needed to consume as a way of life.  (This was satire, of course.  But it demonstrates how silly our society can get sometimes).

Regardless of how our society develops, the important thing is for all of us to care for those who are living.  By the way, that doesn’t mean that we should overproduce children, because we shouldn’t.  We should think seriously about keeping population from expanding further.  Overpopulation is causing climate change and other ills.  We should use the United Nations as a means of controlling population and dealing with issues such as robotics.

Yes, humanity! You need to start thinking concretely.  If God exists, He would want you to do that.

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