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This article has been updated in November 2021. While the thesis has stayed the same, the formatting has been improved, quality of explanations increased and conclusions expanded.

Capitalism will die - but will it take us with it?

Earning a living is an idea that permeates our current society. Most often, a child is told to go to school and get good grades, so they can enter a good university, get a "good" job and earn a lot of money. Needless to say, not everyone succeeds at this - often, people end up with a job that's irrelevant to their education, which means their school years have been wasted. But what if I told you that this whole system is not only not optimal, but unnecessary and in fact will inevitably die soon? We will skip considering whether a lot of the jobs even need to be done, and focus on technology's effect on job availability. So let's take a look at some of the affected occupations:

Delivery - Amazon has invented a drone that can carry a product with a weight of less than 2.6 KG directly to a customer: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/14/amazon-claims-first-successful-prime-air-drone-delivery (archive). This has some problems for now, like needing a certain weather and obviously the limited weight, but it will get better.

Restaurant service - Pizza Hut debuts a robot waiter: https://insideretail.asia/2016/12/07/pizza-hut-china-debuts-robot-waiters/ (archive)

Making burgers - A robot can make 400 burgers per hour: https://www.eater.com/2016/7/1/12077990/robot-burgers-san-francisco-momentum-machines (archive)

Bartending - https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2017/01/30/robotic-barista-now-serving-really-fast/95888780/ (archive) - The first robotic barista in the U.S., nicknamed "Gordon," started serving up to 120 coffee drinks an hour Jan. 30.

Factory work - http://www.wnd.com/2017/02/chinese-factory-replaces-90-of-human-workers-with-robots/ (archive) - While the factory used to be run by 650 employees, only 60 of those people still work at the factory and their primary job is to make sure the machines are running properly

Fruit picking - https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/9160576/brexit-fruit-picking-robots/ (archive) - The robots are able to pluck more than 25,000 raspberries per day while human workers manage around 15,000 in an eight-hour shift

Nursing - Robot nurse finds vein and takes blood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iKQweBsnDQ

Taxi driving - https://www.wsj.com/articles/worlds-first-self-driving-taxis-hit-the-road-in-singapore-1472102747 (archive) - Singapore became the first country in the world to launch a self-driving taxi service on Thursday

Teaching - http://blog.firebrandtalent.com/2016/11/lost-job-robot/ (archive)

Saya had been teaching for seven years. Her impressive but short CV included stints in a few rural areas, overseas and as a substitute teacher. Not bad for someone only seven years into the role. The difference is Saya is a remote controlled robot who taught her first class of 10-year olds in 2009.

News writing - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3668837/Your-days-numbered-sports-writer-Associated-Press-using-AI-write-Minor-League-Baseball-articles.html (archive) - This AI reporter is capable of analyzing data from the games, pulling out the most important highlights to formulate well-constructed and informative stories.

Line judging - In tennis, an automatic line calling system has replaced the line judges (in one tournament so far - but will surely extend to others): https://www.sporttechie.com/next-gen-atp-finals-will-feature-hawk-eye-to-make-every-line-call/ (archive). And the players like it: https://in.reuters.com/article/tennis-nextgen-hawkeye/bad-news-for-line-judges-next-gen-players-like-hawk-eye-calling-idINKBN1D72YA (archive).

Football judging - Something similar is happening in football. The Premier League is using goal-line technology (which automatically detects if there was a goal or not) since 2013: http://www.goal.com/en/news/9/english-football/2013/08/17/4193970/goal-line-technology-makes-premier-league-debut (archive). If football goes the tennis way, it will also use the automatic out detection, and referees will be just for fouls.

Military - Robotic mules are already being tested: https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-12-12/us-army-tests-new-robotic-assistant-pack-mule-combat-zones (archive) - These guys go through pretty rough terrain, all weather conditions. Fighter robots are also being developed - https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/weird-news/robot-wars-russia-unveil-humanoid-8061197 (archive) - the droid is designed "to replace the person in the battle or in emergency areas where there is a risk of explosion, fire, high background radiation, or other conditions harmful to humans.

Looking at the above occupations, we see that millions of jobs are in danger. Why don't we have an unemployment crisis yet, then? Well, there are many steps to take from the invention of a technology to widespread adoption. You need to create the necessary amount of machines and have businesses buy and install them. They can cost quite a lot of money (archive) (more than one human worker per year). The Hawk-Eye tennis ball tracking system has been invented in 2006, but it took until 2017 to use it in an official tournament (for line judging), then another 3 years until it was used in a Grand Slam. Hundreds of small tournaments all over the world still can't afford it.

Did you know they already have fully automated restaurants in China and Singapore? Imagine the amount of possible jobs lost. There are 15 million (archive) restaurants in the world, with 32 workers (archive) per restaurant on average. So, the technology already exists to replace almost 500 million working people worldwide (real stats will be lower, since that site considered "cafes" as restaurants, as well).

A common argument against the idea that robots will replace us is that machines were being invented for a long time, and they've always created more jobs than they took. The problem is - those machines were not intelligent; they still required a human to operate them. This is different; a robot can now clean, cook, serve, teach, work at a factory, drive, refer sporting events, write articles, pick fruit or play a support role in the military, etc. all by itself. And this list will only get longer.

What possible new jobs can these robots create? Repairing them? Programming them? Great, but that will surely be much less than all the factory and restaurant jobs they're going to take. And not everyone is qualified to do repair or programming. What about all the people that aren't? Even if they could all do repair and programming, we just don't need that much of those. Maybe watching the robots over will be the new, big job opportunity - yes, I suspect that could be a nice scam to keep the corpse of capitalism twitching for a little longer.

Politicians all over the world have been scrambling to "create jobs" - but there's only so much that they can do. The robot revolution cannot be denied, regardless of intentions. Many basic jobs are already being lost, but they will eventually come for the construction workers, doctors...maybe even politicians themselves, as well. Another mistake is to blame it all on the worker - tell him to get better education or skills, as many ancaps are fond of doing. You have no idea what kind of advanced technology people are going to invent, and just because you have a skilled job doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be saved. Why not just stop pretending, and get some compassion before this whole system kills us all?

Expert predictions (archive) indicate a huge effect of the robot revolution soon - We estimate that between 400 million and 800 million individuals could be displaced by automation and need to find new jobs by 2030 around the world). Even engineers aren't safe - 56% are expected to be replaced by automation (archive). Even though - as the sports have shown - the displacement process could be slow, and the exact date pushed further - it is inevitable. Better prepare earlier than later.

What can be done? Clearly, politicians will keep supporting the current, unsustainable, system (otherwise, they would face the fucking problem instead of pretending all is fine - we will just create more jobs) - while people are losing their jobs and dying. There's been an idea called "Universal Basic Income" which would give everyone a certain amount of money unconditionally. But to me, this is just another attempt to keep the current system alive. Eventually, we're going to have to face the fact that, to do everything society needs to function, not everyone needs to work. And it's better to admit it right now, and change the system so that not having a job isn't an immediate disaster. In a sane society, pushing for increased automation would be fine, to free people from a life centered on work faster. In reality, though, we will likely end up in a world where, over time, jobs are slowly replaced by machines - but the people who did them earlier are now starving and dying. Automation itself is not the problem, it is the idea that everyone must be constantly earning a living. I just hope we can change culturally before the machines enforce the changes on us - and that we manage to do it without millions of corpses as collateral damage. Capitalism will die - but will it take us with it?

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