If a Robot Steals Your Job, Thank It.

From the wheel to the Wii, “technology” is what it’s call it when humans – sick of doing every step of every job themselves – leverage tools and resources to get the job done quicker, cheaper, more efficiently, or all three.

It’s not just modern inventions like iPads and Terminators that count as technology. It’s the abacus, which helped ancient civilisations count higher than their fingers. It’s the printing press – which enabled ordinary people to read the bible, rather than having to hear it second hand from their priest.

In fact, it’s not just even just “devices”… it’s also systems, like the assembly line Henry Ford masterminded, allowing cars to be made at a fraction of the cost and at a speed previously undreamed of. To get crude, even the humble to-do list is technology – instead of having to keep in mind the 7 things you have to do lest you forget any, you write them on a piece of paper, ridding yourself of the need to remember any of them.

Any time humans leverage anything to get something done quicker, cheaper, or more efficiently – we can call it technology.

Humans have untold potential – the things we can do now will almost certainly seem quaint and naive in a hundred years’ time – and it is only technological progress that frees us to explore that potential. When we don’t have to spend our time on the trivial, on the bullshit – on the things that don’t matter – we are free to spend our time on higher pursuits.

Technology is – in its broadest sense – the greatest human achievement. And yet in recent years, it’s been under attack.

The robots are coming for your jobs

Many people – though they may spend the lion’s share of their day staring and prodding at their smartphone – are increasingly wary of technology, and the detrimental effect they see it having on their future.

Most of these people are not Luddites – opposed to technological progress for intellectual or philosophical reasons. On the contrary, they’re just real people, people who fear – encouraged in no small part by an ever-predatory media – for their place in the world, as technology moves ever faster towards automation, robotics, A.I…

The message they are hearing loud and clear is: “Sooner or later, when your job is “taken” by a robot, you will become irrelevant.”

I can’t imagine how horrible it must be to feel that way – to feel as though you have such little inherent purpose in the world that a “robot” can “replace” you.

Fortunately, it’s completely unfounded.

Your job can be replaced. You can’t be, though.

When people live in fear – and actively seek to hold back technological progress – thinking that “the robots” are going to render them irrelevant, they right about one thing, wrong about another.

The thing they are right about is that their particular job is probably replaceable. They are not, in the long run, the best person for the job. The best person for the job is probably not a person at all, but some kind of machine.

The thing they get wrong? That the first point is a bad thing.

You are not your job

You are not your job. You are you. You are an autonomous human being. You cannot be replaced.

You can lose your job, sure. But unless you let your job define you, it’s just the thing that you happen do day-by-day which enables you to pay for stuff. Food, shelter, some new trainers every now and then…

And if a robot can do your job quicker, better, easier than you can, then you can’t really get upset with the robot for that. It’s not the robot’s fault. It’s also not your fault either. The fault is with the system, the culture, with society at large.

You were lied to. You were taught that what matters is subservience – “getting a job.” And unfortunately, whilst humans have showed themselves to be fairly adept at subservience over the years, they’ve got nothing on robots.

The personal and the political

The truth is that the vast amount of jobs people currently have are going to become irrelevant as technology marches forward. That is what is going to happen, whether we resist it to or not. It’s just a matter of when. And so have a duty and an obligation to adapt to these changes. If we don’t, they will crush us.

On a personal level, we must realise that what matters most is not our job, and keeping it at all costs. If a robot can do your job as well or better than you, let it. There is definitely something better you could be doing with your limited time here on the planet. Let the robots do what they’re better at. And you do something robots could never do.

But what about the fact that people need to pay for stuff? How will they do that without their trivial jobs? Well, that’s where the political comes in.

There is enough money and resources on this planet for nobody to have go without food and shelter. It is not “the way it unfortunately must be” for people to spend their time worrying about these things, it’s a political decision.

The sole reason half the world lives in poverty, and has to struggle to survive until tomorrow, is because we haven’t yet decided to – and figured out a way – to make it happen. It’s not because it’s impossible. It’s just that we haven’t got there yet.

There are giant problems facing humanity, and governments around the world need to wake up to the fact we are not going to solve them if we insist on maintaining the status quo – keeping humans on treadmills of subserviency, performing jobs that could be done better by robots, just so that they have something to do. Why not inspire them – and sponsor them – to do something bigger and better?

Humans are suited to particular tasks. Why not let the robots do everything else. And then let’s see what we’re capable of.

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