“$ robot” copyright : Lomig Coulon 2016
“human need not apply” is a short film published by CGP Grey on Youtube. The film focuses on the fact that robots are more and more useful and able to replace human activities. The film introduces a future where human won’t have to work thanks to the robotisation.
Concerning the short film, automation is involved in two different areas: mechanical muscles and, more recently, mechanical mind. Mechanical muscles already displaced horses from their jobs: replacing them by motorized engines that are more powerful and useful for humankind than horses. Isn’t the creation of mechanical mind going to displace humans from their jobs just like mechanical muscles did with horses?
Nowadays, robots can be programmed to do anything: it is only a matter of cost. Robots will probably involve massive breakthrough innovations in many areas like health or industry. It is easy to understand that robots can be more efficient than humans: robots are programmed to focus on a task, they can analyze massive numbers of information really fast, they even can be programmed to make decisions, compose or learn. Knowing that, there is no doubt that it’s possible for robots to replace humans in an incredibly high proportion of our jobs.
What would be the impact of an extreme robotisation on economy and Society?
According to Keynes, economy is based on simple and natural rules, which define interactions between labor, production, and consumption. Consumption requires production and production requires labor. Humans are paid to work, and that is the main thing that gives life to the “economic loop”: wages increases consumption, consumption increase need of production and need of production increase need of labor.
If robots replace humans at work as stated in this short film, there will be a serious impact on the economy. If we take labor out of the equation, there is no more wages, and people won’t be able to consume. No consumption means no need to produce. This could be an end to the world economy and a massive evolution in our civilization.
If we imagine a complete replacement of humans by robots, which is only a matter of time according to CGP Grey, companies will end full of useless robots because, again, no consumption need no need to produce and so there will be no need to use the robots. This could be an end to the world economy and a massive evolution in our civilization.
What place for human in this future?
It is hard to know, but it does not look to good. The point of view exposed in the short-film is really pessimistic, and it seems plausible but it does not provide any solution to the economic problematic. Even if employing robots rather than humans will be costly attractive and even if robots become more effective to work than humans, will employers be ready to drive their companies trough this transformation? If yes, it is our entire society that will have to change and adapt to this new kind of economy.
Thinking globalized, we see that products industries from the developed countries are relocated in developing countries; the service industry is following this model. We can imagine that developing countries will continue to follow developed countries model while the developed countries will do their robotic transition.
The robotic transition will occur at the same time than all of the others evolutions that are slowly progressing in a common way to build the world of tomorrow. A world in which our social interactions, our values and our conception of work will be different.