If not within our lifetime, than within the lifetime of our children there will be a revolution in robotics that will change every aspect of human society as we know it. Will we be ready for it? We are just now settling into the information age; enjoying the luxuries of the industrial revolution while sharing prosperity around the world, but in this age not everyone lives a life of luxury. Everyone can’t, because if everyone did who would clean the toilets? Who would do the farming? Who would make our Nike shoes? The prosperity of the modern world is dependent on the unfortunate unskilled workers living in poverty locally and throughout the world.
The rich of the world don’t physically labor; their work is to manage the resources they’ve attained that make them wealthy. Those resources, textiles or commodities are intrinsically dependent on the people paid to manufacture and distribute them. It is in the interest of the business owner to pay those people as little as possible to insure maximum returns and increase wealth. Obviously. Less obviously is the bare bones necessity of maintaining the monetary divide between wealth controlling business owners and the laboring masses. A business owner’s personal incentive for furthering financial growth is only a catalyst that preserves a more fundamentally important economic truth: The rich need the poor.
If you work out of necessity to support yourself you are poor. The middle class is just the fancy poor living in prosperous countries where even the poor are often richer than the richest of poor nations. The rich are dependent on the poor for their productive value, they need workers and the rich don’t labor so they need the poor to work for them. The poor spend their money buying the commodities the rich control, which means anything they were paid is just going back to their employer. Ultimately it’s not about the money; it’s about getting people to work for you.
This economic divide is inevitable because once a certain level of wealth is achieved economics ceases to be a measure of money and is instead a measure of people under your control. To the few wealth controlling individuals of the world money is used as an incentive to motivate the working class to fulfill their productive function, and by filling that roll of laborer the working class insures their financial standings will only ever reach the capitol ceiling established by their employer. This is the economic nature of the world in which we live, but change is in the winds.
Robots have been passively serving humanity and assisting the common laborer for over 40 years, but not until recently has the industry of robotics reached the point of viability for autonomous dynamically applicable automated production. Historically robots have worked behind the scenes as an extra hand on assembly lines, performing routine functions with greater efficiency than their human counterparts. Recently however, the robotics industry coupled with the powers of the rapidly developing computer industry is giving way to intelligent robots capable of performing complex tasks that involve direct human interaction. Robots are making their way from industrial to residential application, just as their computer counterparts did less than 30 years ago, and the potential ramifications of this transition are exponentially more momentous.
The dawn of autonomous robots is upon us! In 2004 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) held a 100-mile autonomous robot race through the desert, no robots completed it. In 2005 five robots completed the DARPA Grand Challenge robot race. Since then autonomous robot technology has been developing at an extraordinary rate. Japan has several autonomous robots with functions ranging from personal entertainment to customer service. America is working on autonomous robotic supply trucks and reconnaissance vehicles, while China is aiming to apply autonomous robots to hazardous labor.
It is projected that by 2020 autonomous robots will reach the simulated intelligence of a monkey. That may not seem that smart, but it’s smart enough to do most labor intensive jobs when coupled with detailed routine programming. When robots are capable of mining their own resources and manufacturing their own parts the labor for their production will be free. When robots can ship and sell themselves their distribution will be free. The only charge required for their production would be the price of raw materials and the rent of the factory in which they were produced. From a capitalist prospective there is an enormous profit margin for business owners in an industry run this way, but it displaces countless workers.
When robots are capable of fulfilling all menial labor the divide between business owners and laborers will become outrageous. With business owners making total profit off every good produced by cutting out the cost of labor their wealth will sky-rocket while all of their former human laborers plummet into destitution as they find themselves unemployed. Yet the working class is also the consuming class, so if the working class looses its income the business owners loose their consumer market and the economy will collapse.
It is because of capitol incentive that industry has advanced as far as it has in the last one hundred years. The pursuit of the American dream has elevated Western society from the horse and carriage to sports cars and the space shuttle, all the while improving the local quality of living while outsourcing the unpleasant primary labor to underdeveloped countries. When robots become economically viable it will be due to the resourcefulness of modern industry and the driving power of Capitalism but the dilemma posed by fully implementing robots into every facet of industrial labor will prevent Capitalism from capitalizing on the true power of the robot revolution.
A Capitalist economy is not fit for autonomous robot industrialization. A Communist economy however is perfectly suited for the implementation of a fully robotic workforce. In a Communist economy the government controls industry and wealth distribution to insure that everyone is afforded basic amenities. Communism exists as a response to the disproportionate wealth distribution of industrialized nations and functions better as an idealist philosophy than an actual economic system because it lacks the incentive of riches and glamour that compel development through Capitalism.
The third world countries that conduct the outsourced labor of modern industrialized nations could potentially leapfrog the entire process of modern industry and implement autonomous robots with a Communist infrastructure, just as many underdeveloped countries skipped over implementing land-line phones in lieu of cell phones. Robots are the only means of industrialization capable of sustaining the world to allow everyone to live with the quality of living found in modern industrial nations, but modern industrial economic practices aren’t designed to handle an autonomous robot workforce.
In order for a Capitalist nation to survive the robot revolution two things need to happen. First, social and economic measures need to be taken immediately in preparation for autonomous robotic industrialization. Some form of compensation needs to be planned for workers displaced by robots to keep them from falling into total disparity and, conversely, steps need to be taken to insure that big businesses don’t have total control over the robotics industry. Robots aren’t simply an advanced form of computer, nor are they simply an evolution of the common machine. The significance of robots is of the same grandeur as nuclear energy.
Robots can revolutionize industry beyond the need for human hands, but also possess the power if wielded unwisely to destroy mankind as we know it. That power should not be left for big business to handle unchecked, if at all.
The second thing a Capitalist nation needs to do to survive autonomous robots is develop them first. It is of the utmost importance that Capitalist nations develop autonomous robots before a Communist country does because if a Communist country implements a fully autonomous workforce before Capitalism is ready for it, the Capitalist economy will be flooded with goods manufactured for free by the Communist nation. This surplus of extremely cheap goods will wash away the Capitalist financial system making its economy crumble to the ground. A Capitalist human labor force is no match for Communist robots.
This is a warning. A warning that the economic system that affords the apathy to ignore it is in jeopardy. This article is not intended to persuade Capitalists to favor Communism. The Communist laborer of today is identical in many ways to the robots that will soon replace them. In it’s current state Communism demands a level of assimilation from its citizens that stifles creativity and limits civil liberties in a manor unbecoming of our modern age. The restrictions of religion and other personal beliefs as a form of social control imposed by modern Communism are not suitable for human-beings, though similar restrictions placed upon robots may prove necessary in the future to maintain control of our creations if their intelligence spawns insubordination. Ideally a robot labor force will lift the burden of intense assimilation from modern Communist nations as creativity will become significantly more valuable once manual labor is fully mechanized.
Though Communism has a better infrastructure for the implementation of an autonomous robot labor force it shares a common flaw with Capitalism in that it’s an economic model based on scarcity. Both Communism and Capitalism are modeled to deal with the economic problems of the past: supply and demand, the cost of labor, and the scarcity of resources. By assigning value to services and commodities based on the demand for their production and their difficulty to render modern economics has managed to get by, despite the surplus created by the efficiency of modern industry which nearly destroyed Capitalism during the Great Depression of the 1920’s. With the aid of government imposed economic regulations both Capitalism and Communism have managed to maintain acceptable levels of economic stability while grappling with the surplus created by modern industry, but neither system is designed to handle the extreme abundance afforded by robotic industrialization. An alternative form of economics designed to distribute abundance, something akin to the North American economic science of Technocracy, is better suited for a robot assisted future.
The entire world, all of humanity, can be elevated to live a life of luxury with robots doing all the industrial labor. With menial labor taken care of, education and creative endeavors would become paramount, freeing humanity to develop its greatest faculty: the human mind. This social reform into a utopian state is only possible with the proper implementation of robots. It should be the goal of every able minded individual to curve the world towards this robot revolution. Even before robotic technology reaches economic viability social reform is needed to insure that people know the benefits of robotic industrialization. This is a call for humanity to advance, just as we’ve advanced from caves to homes, as we’ve risen out of feudalism and forged Democracy, as we’ve gone from manpower to horse power to machine power. It is time for a new age, the culmination of everything learned and done before it, and the end of human labor. Oppression, inequity, war, poverty, these can be things of the past with the proper implementation of robotic industrialization. The full realization of humanity is upon us, it is time to advance!