Dead end jobs are a form of slave labor. If robots bagged all groceries, folded all clothing, scrubbed all floors and tended all assembly lines, the workers who now tend these jobs would be freed from repetition and drudgery. They could spend their hours reading books,walking in the park or grooming a pet dog.
But are we willing to grant these workers their freedom? Freedom from work is one thing. Support for unwanted beings is yet another thing. Society uses people and products and then dumps them. Look what happened to horses when motor driven vehicles took their jobs.
What do we do with unwanted human workers? This is an issue that should concern all of us. Unskilled jobs won't be the only jobs lost.
Several medical, and engineering jobs are now done by robots. Robots can teach, and that alone puts millions of people out of work.
What can we do? Retrain? Lower the retirement wage? Some wages are already at starvation levels.
Education may not be the answer when robots can do anything a smart person can do and do it better. Robots don't need breaks or vacations, and they make fewer mistakes. People with leisure will probably crave learning, and the role of robots in education will be to teach people not other robots. Thus education will change. It will no longer be about training for jobs, but about training for leisure and self enlightenment.
Back to the original question. What do we do with unneeded and, therefore, unwanted workers?
Let's look at our history. Perhaps we can find some answers there.
Workers skilled and unskilled were once necessary.
Survival throughout our history depended on working men and women. Great wealth could not have been created without our muscle. We built the bridges, roads and the pathways to outer space. We have been faithful employees to businesses, big and small. How much have we been appreciated? Our wages were kept as low as possible.
Governments had to create minimum wage laws to help us survive. Even skilled musicians and writers are often asked to perform for free. Labor despite its necessity has historically not been valued.
A leisure class developed. Their freedom met with little resistance. The wealthy could spend their days playing tennis, learning French, writing poetry or sleeping in the sun. They could drink themselves to death; gambling was a gentleman's sport.
These “gentlemen” probably seldom gave a thought to the men, women and children who mined their ore or toiled in their factories. Segregation exists that has nothing to do with race. The wealthy do not eat or socialize with their help. Maids take the bus to work; they don't get a ride home from the chauffeur. Air planes have first class accommodations. Those who can afford to spend a little more, don't want to rub elbows with the working class.
For lower or middle class individuals to be jobless, is practically a sin. The unemployed are called bums and freeloaders. These ad hominem attacks have increased recently. Ronald Reagan's fictional Welfare Cadillac was just the beginning. Listen to the rhetoric when Congress plans its budget. Attacks on the unemployed grow as globalization and robotics put more and more people out of work?
The wealthy take our jobs away, give them to unskilled workers in other countries or to robots, and they call us lazy bums. Then they return to their leisure. Is leisure the right of only the very wealthy?
What do we do with workers when we don't have enough jobs for them?
Do we give them forty acres and a mule and expect them to be self supporting?
Those who don't want the farm can perhaps have an eBay store.
Those ideas seem too simplistic. Too 18th and 19th century. (Yet an eBay store is just a small shop, and Thomas Jefferson dreamed of making America a nation of farms and small shops.) Do we do away with money? Greed used to be one of the seven deadly sins. But some people on Wall Street, and in Congress (and in Ayn Rand fan clubs) have turned it into a virtue.
The rich aren't going to want to feed us or clothe us if we aren't working our butts off. And they aren't going to part with their beloved bank accounts. Look at the currant resistance to taxation among the wealthy. They don't want to pay their share.
Is it possible we will give the working classes leisure?
In a world without other people's work, can we be our own masters as Thomas Jefferson and others dreamed we could be? What will workers do, if we don't have shelves to stock, groceries to bag or streets to clean?
We can write novels and poetry.
We can golf or hike or watch sunsets without being so tired from a day in the factory that we can't appreciate the beauty.
We can watch our children grow up and teach them to appreciate things like old cats and dogs, sunflowers, butterflies and dandelions.
We can grow tomatoes or walnut trees.
We can appreciate life before we get so old we are more ready for death than retirement.
Robots can do the work so men, women and children can enjoy the freedom even Thomas Jefferson never dreamed possible. Robots can provide food, clothing and shelter for all of us.
We can be a society where the different classes respect and support each other as equals, not as master and slave, upper and lower class.
What is the alternative? Robots serving their privileged masters while the rest of humanity dies? Let's hope not.
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