Monday, Debtember 15, 2003
Some random thoughts on employment
So, the first real wave of robots did not replace all the factory workers as everyone imagined. The robots replaced middle management and significantly improved the performance of minimum wage employees. All of the fast food chains watched the Burger-G experiment with Manna closely, and by 2012 they started installing Manna systems as well. By 2014 or so, nearly every business in America that had a significant pool of minimum-wage employees was installing Manna software or something similar. They had to do it in order to compete.
In other words, Manna spread through the American corporate landscape like wildfire. And my dad was right. It was when all of these new Manna systems began talking to each other that things started to get uncomfortable.
This is the third science fiction story I've come across that goes into depth in a post-scarcity world; a computerized utopia where there are no wants for material items—the others being Prime Intellect and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Perhaps our apparent jobless economic recovery is a harbinger of things to come.
I remember reading a future employment scenario in one of Robert Anton Wilson's works and it was an interesting scenario. If you automate your own job—if you invent yourself out of a job in other words, you get a yearly government salary of $250,000/year. Anyone whose job is elimited because of automation will get $25,000/year. An intriguing idea but one I don't really see coming about.
Another aspect of this “jobless recovery” I've been hearing about is that more and more people are just giving up on being employed and thus a large number of people are turning entrepreneurial, leading to a vast number of now self-employed (which as a figure probably won't show up until the next year or so).
There's a coherent thought in here somewhere … I just have to find it.