Views of the future: Impact of technology on employment and human life

It is clear that one of the main and most important discussion issues nowadays, is the impact of technology in our life. Not only talking about the people involved in science or technology, but the daily life of the common of the people. Weather we talk about smartphones, computers or software; it seems that technology has come to every aspects of our lives, and it will stay for good.

While we are getting used to the newest technology in the market, another version or a replacing technology emerges at the time, and the speed of improving doesn’t seem to slow down. In fact, it is more likely that the speed of new technology creation augments instead of slowing down, and this is because with the help of more and more technology it becomes easier to create more. It is more or less like having better tools, to create better results.

And one of the crucial issues on the matter is the rising of Artificial Intelligence, or AI as it will be referred. AI is very sophisticated software or device, which has the capability of reprograming itself for better achieving the results for which it was created for. And this is why it is said that it is capable to “learn”, because through experimentation it is capable to improve itself.

The rise of AI is of particular importance, because it is said to have the capabilities to reshape the world where we live. It is that important, that the World Economic Forum has called it the 4th industrial revolution, which it is going to be characterized by the presence of these super intelligent machines in the productive sector. And every aspect of human life is said to be involved. As far as today, AI devices are capable of producing their own art, such as music and paintings. AI from Google and Facebook are said to have produce their own language. In the finance sector, AI is used to stock trading.

And this is, because with more and more reliability in machines, the role of human being in the productive sector is reduced, or replaced. Many of the current professions are said to disappear, or to be replaced. First, mechanical or relatively easy jobs, and later on more complex professions, such as professors, lawyers or even doctors or engineers. Of course, this is not going to happen immediately, and the timing for it to happen depends on many forthcoming factors.

All of these suppositions have a strong impact on the job market, and in the general view of the future from the part of the population. And the big question is, is it fair to replace human beings with machines? If a machine, robot or software is able to fulfill a task in a better, faster and with less cost, is it bad to replace human beings in the productive field? In fact, recently there was a scandal because certain CEO’s of fast food chains have publicly said that they were happily to replace the human workers for robots. But isn’t it the job of the firm to look for their own interests?

We are not worried per se about losing our jobs; we are worried about income and relevance uncertainty. Because most of the tasks that can be replaced by machines are considerate as “work”, job or effort, and human nature is in a constant search for reducing the effort that needs a task to be fulfilled. In fact, one of the main differences to differentiate the leisure time from the working time is the same that we human beings have in comparison to machines: is the capability to enjoy. A task is considerate as a job if it takes effort, otherwise if we enjoy it is leisure time. One of the ways of defining work is the trade of time, effort and abilities for a wage, and thus exchanging time that could be used as leisure, or achieving different kind of goals. Because the machines don’t have the capability to enjoy things, the difference in the exchange of leisure and working time does not apply to them.

In the first half of the 20th century, John Maynard Keynes, considerated one of the greatest minds in the economical science, had a very particular vision of the working week of the future. He believed, that with the help of the machines, we would only have to work very reduced times, such as 15 hours per week. Human basic needs, as well as resources would be easily fulfilled with the help of the machines, and humanity would could focus on the

development of human spirit, occupying our times with arts, sports or basically anything that we want to do to heighten our human condition.
Was Keynesian view of the future wrong, or should we still have to aim for it with the help of AI? And most important, are these wishes for society still relevant?

But current views of the future does not seem that positive, and instead of thinking in a world with less effort and more of free time, we tend to look at the future as a place with the need of more skills in order to be able to perform in the next job market. Humanity is not worried about losing the jobs per se, is worried about losing the relevance in the productive field, and thus losing the income. In this technological world, the owners of the technology would be the ones who get the profits. In this technological world, inequality would become bigger and bigger, because it would be harder to compete against more and more sophisticated technology. And the owners of this technology would be the ones to take profits out of it, being mainly big companies.

And this is what we are seeing in the modern world with the big companies such as google, apple and Microsoft. Because of the wealth belongs to the ones who own the production means, it would be harder to compete against this technology.

Inequality is as well one of the main topics in the global agenda nowadays. Inequality comes with a wide range of consequences, some of them good some of them bad. For example, historically seen many of the causes of the revolutions have its causes on inequality, such as the French and Russian revolution. Inequality fosters the crime, violence and competitiveness in a society, but as well inequality is considerate to have a positive impact in the economic growth of a society. After a Credit Suisse study, the 1% of the population holds the 48% of the global wealth in the world.

Because of the tight link between the welfare of society, politics and government, one of the main tasks of the public sector is to maximize social welfare. And this includes the state position regarding inequality of the population, applying or not measures to control it, which is again one of the main discussions in the public economic sector.

Is it fair to apply taxes to those who produce more to help the ones who have the less? Why should we help to those who do not make an effort? Isn’t it the very objective of human work, to have a reward because of our own effort?

All of this are hypothetical situations, but if technology continues with its exponential growth soon we are not going to be dealing with technological issues, but instead with social and ethical issues regarding employment, and inequality. Our problems are not going to be related about the production of resources, but rather their distribution.
A right or wrong answer to this kind of issues does not exist. We can only think of a better implementation of the public policies, and this are going to be the ones who favorites the most of individual of a given society, and at the same time help to grow the economic growth. Because of the nature of these social issues, the main dilemma remains an ethical one, and the best way to produce a better response is with a better understanding of current circumstances. And most important of all, is by not forgetting that the ultimate goal of economics is to improve people’s everyday life.

 

Abraham Anchondo
Ca Foscari Student, QEM Master Program