This is not a new topic. Robots have been replacing more and more jobs over the years at an increasing rate. Up to this point the unemployment rate has been able to handle it thanks to other industries being able to absorb the dislocated work force. However, I believe that we are quickly approaching a time when there will not be any place for the unemployed to find new employment.
This is because we are approaching the ability to replace jobs that require specialized skills. Up to this point the jobs that have been replaced have been things like assembly lines. Many of these jobs did not require human creativity or critical thinking. But with things like Watson from IBM trying to replace Doctors and self driving cars likely to replace the taxi industry, the people being replaced will be people that have studied, trained, and paid to be specialized in an industry. These job skills are also ones that do not easily transfer to another job of equal pay that would not also be replaced. For example, taxi drivers wouldn’t be able to become truck drivers, because those jobs would be replaced just as easily.
I know there will likely still be Doctors required to check the diagnosis spit out by Watson, and laws will likely still require someone to sit in the driver’s seat of the taxi. But the individual sitting in the driver’s seat of the taxi will not need to have any special training, and could easily be paid minimum wage. And when I go to the emergency room and a nurse practitioner takes care of me and checks in with a doctor before treating me, that nurse is doing exactly what Watson could. But Watson likely costs much less in the long run, and probably makes fewer mistakes. Many more minimum wage jobs can also be easily replaced by a kiosk. For example, every employee at a McDonalds location could be replaced by kiosks, automated assembly lines and a single manager paid minimum wage to handle complaints and restock the machines.
All of these things lead to the reason that I think that a guaranteed wage will become a necessity and that a higher tax could be accepted by the masses. As we have less and less need for people to work, we could make pay checks be entirely for frivolous spending. If the government gave you the money to live, and you only have to work to pay for things like a giant house, vacations and entertainment, then those that want to be couch potatoes can, and those that want to do things can work a bit. This would also make it so that jobs that are horrible pay more, and jobs that are fun or desirable pay relatively less. The salary of a worker would be purely based on demand for the work to be done and how hard the potential workers think that job is. They would not have to work so the company would have to make it worth their while. Companies like Walmart would not be able to abuse their employees because they would not need that job, they would do it because the pay is worth the effort. Also since every person is given the money to live, they can afford to pay higher taxes because they don’t need that money, it is just extra.
The minimum wage could be abolished, because the standard of living is given to the employees by the government. Unemployment and welfare can be closed because everyone has money. Much of the work done by welfare to ensure that people are not claiming it when they shouldn’t be would not need to be done because everyone gets it. All that would need to be enforced is taxes but that is already the case. We would have universal health care, which would require one new government agency, and the IRS would probably be responsible for the pay to the people, or the treasury. But most of the rest of the social services would no longer be needed. I believe that this would greatly reduce the size of the government which I think of as a good think. This would also make desirable jobs cheaper to be done in the United States, and less desirable jobs cheaper to out source, which would also make the population overall happier.
The biggest reason I think this sounds so great is that this would encourage people to do what interests them the most instead of just what pays ok. For example, an artist can be an artist, and an inventor can invent. I believe that this would greatly increase the rate at which technological advances are made in technology and culture would bloom.
Now this is not quite possible yet. We still need the work force we have and we will continue to need them until companies can implement their technical replacements, but I think that by increasing the minimum wage we can increase the incentive for companies to invest in automation. The opportunity cost of not automating an employees job who makes $15 an hour is double the cost of not replacing an employees job who makes $7.50. And so the cost of the technology has to decrease more before a company considers it worth while. However I believe that since technology keeps advancing the day that it becomes worth while is inevitable, and I also believe that it will happen in my lifetime. The real question is just weather when that day comes, will legislation move us to guaranteed pay or will revolution. If the legislation is not passed I think we will see a revolt of the vast number of unemployed citizens against the wealthy. This may not necessarily be a revolt against the government, it may be an attack on the wealthy citizens paying for lobbying and viewed to be controlling the government.
I am sure that I am not the first person to think of this, nor am I the first to write it. But I am mostly creating this blog for myself anyway. I am also sure there are other possibilities then the ones I thought of here, but to me this is a bright future so this is the one I wanted to think of and the one I want to help form. Also, in case any of you don’t know who I am, I would like to point out that I am not a poor man. I will likely not be one of the people replaced by automation early on, although I may be one of the people helping to develop the software and I do help to automate my current job wherever possible. Although I would have said that medicine would be hard to replace before I heard about Watson. I would also continue to do my job even if I had a guaranteed pay check because I love what I do and I would be fine paying even more taxes if it made these ideas a reality. The biggest issue I see with my idea here is that it assumes that most people performing jobs hard to automate enjoy doing the job they are or that the economy could afford to pay them enough to get them to do it. Unfortunately I don’t know how to judge if this idea is true or not without actually doing research.