The Upside of the Automation Economy

Universal income, in some form, will begin to be put in place in civilized economies worldwide, most likely with barriers to entry, such as participation in training programs or proof of productivity, whether it’s profitable or not. The society of robots will drive productivity through the roof in all the industries we can currently fathom, and scarcity will reduce for many products, especially agriculture and distribution. With lower food and distribution costs, people’s disposable income will increase. Commodities that the unemployed purchase at a disproportionate rate will see demand skyrocket: beer, weed, movie tickets, internet usage, etc.

If it’s good enough for Finland, it’s good enough for us!

Jobs will become more and more about fulfilling the leisure and time needs. People who otherwise would have chosen to be creative will pursue that; more and more people will pop up as would-be Youtube stars and bloggers, amateur filmmakers, middling comic book artists. Distribution of those goods will create self-supported industries, just like in books, independent video games and other fields, where the creators are simultaneously the audience and push the best of the best to the top of the heap with their dollars.

People to people interactions will become more valued. With an over-abundance of time and no hope of a job, slowly the societal norm of equating self-worth and success to workforce success will diminish. People will self-organize competitions with regard to their passions and pride and status will stem from those silo’d competitions. People will connect more closely with their family and friends, and seek new experiences.

Millions of people will move up a rung on this pyramid from safety to love

One thing to keep in mind is that, while we’ll be punished by the lack of jobs, we’ll also be the benefactors of the increase in productivity. With robots churning out planes at an alarming rate, and driving them day and night, things like travel will become cheaper. The lifestyles of the rich and famous — 5-star restaurants, weekend cross-continental travel, large families and not having to answer to a direct-report superior will trickle down to the masses.

What’s that like, one chicken nugget worth food for $200? I’m gonna eat it in bed off a paper plate

Just to carve something out, in specific, let’s talk about what massively increased demand for travel would mean: airbnb and other housing services will become even more profitable, and travel and cultural support industries will expand — things like local food, theme parks, historical tours, musicians and bars.

Watch out, zoos of the world, I’m comin’

As for food, to take another example, with machines producing huge amounts of food to scale, imagine what will happen, just as has happened with every industrial machine with a consumer application: efficiency will continue to grow, and the size will shrink. Forty years ago we couldn’t imagine a personal computer that exceeded the most expensive computers around being available in the pockets of everyone on Earth. Already agricultural technology can be purchased at a consumer level, although efficiency isn’t where it needs to be. Can you imagine buying a box the size of a microwave that grows fresh produce for you with zero maintenance and no cost?

I can, because it’s already out there. It’s just slow and expensive… for now