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This article is about automation, about how it will put most of us out of work within a few years and about what we can do. I can’t help but be haunted by these ideas and think it’s time to give them deep consideration. Let’s dive in.
We have to look at the road ahead of us if we are to be in any way prepared. If you make the deliberate choice to only think about things that are comforting – well I can’t blame you in one sense, but in another sense, that yearning for comfort creates a form of vulnerability. Facing reality and making strong choices is what leads to preparedness and resilience at the end of the day.
Automation – from driverless cars to robot manufacturing – is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. The robots are here. There are many jobs that used to be done by humans that simply do not require humans any more. In many cases, the machines can do them more predictably, more accurately, faster and of course – a machine can work 24/7. A robot needs no pension plan, no lunch break, will never phone in sick and will never, ever show up for work hung over.
Looking at obvious trends has triggered the realization that as AI gets smarter and robots become more skilled, more and more workers become replaceable. For example, much of agriculture is already mechanized and there have been proof-of-concept experiments growing an entire crop – from seed to supermarket – without humans having done any of the work or even having touched the goods at all. Car manufacture also is very highly automated. From the employer’s point of view this can be seen as desirable in terms of lowering costs and increasing output, which are bottom-line necessities in order to remain competitive.
Related: $10,000 Car That Runs On Air!
In China there are now many shops / stores with no staff – or perhaps just one security official on “door duty”. You pick up what you want, scan the QR code on your phone and then you are done. It’s not unreasonable to expect that this trend will be adopted everywhere.
But it’s not just the simple “shelf stacker” type jobs that are on the line. Scientific research into new technologies pitted lawyers and doctors against AIs and found that the AI “won” in certain tests – as seen in the video – such as being able to diagnose health issues and evaluate legal documents more accurately.
Even the human who is replacing the humans with robots is replaceable.
So with machines, automated processes and AI able to do more and more of the work, it’s just a matter of time before most of the existing tasks that keep the wheels turning do not require us any more. Will we simply be out of a job and out of luck? Or will the new wealth bring new opportunities? What will the mass of humanity do?
From this question arose the discussion of Universal Basic Income – the idea of giving everyone alive a kind of welfare check that covers the basics of life – with a “robot tax” being levied on businesses utilizing a high degree of automation, in order to pay for it. As such schemes would replace existing welfare programs, which already cost trillions worldwide, a significant chunk of the funds required for such programs have in fact already been allocated towards this sector – meaning that the financial “leap” is not as great as might be imagined.
One of the standard promises given by government leaders on the path to election is that they will “provide jobs”. In future, this promise will likely be transparently unrealistic and so they will need to make a new promise. The offer of Universal Basic Income is thus quite likely to be pitched – possibly even very soon.
Perhaps, in fact, it is already here. Whether or not you are into conspiracy theory – I can’t help thinking that 2020 has been seized upon as an opportunity to push this scenario forward in a giant way. Think about it. Many people are currently being paid to stay at home. Was this always a convenient way to warm people up to the idea of UBI?
But if machines are doing all the work – will humans have any value at all?
“When the producer names the tune, the consumer has got to dance.”
This is a universal truth. If all you are is a consumer, you are in one sense the ‘bottom of the food chain.’
As things currently stand, even if you are not a “producer” – a worker or productive individual, you still have “value to the system” – as a consumer. You spend your income – buying first the essentials of life and then moving on to the “desirable but not quite as necessary”, if you have funds left over. Your consumerism is a vital factor that drives the economy, providing opportunities and funding the creation of goods and services.
But if all you do is eat grain and don’t lay any eggs, why will the farmer keep you?
There are some very dark ideas floating around as people sense the dizzying pace of change and struggle to make sense of the new world. Our previous “stable” life path is gone. It’s been pulled out from under our feet. Naturally this leads us to wonder whether we are in fact now disposable rather than indispensable. Grand decisions are certainly being made and executed “from upon high” with very little in the way of our input being considered toward the way our future is being sculpted. Now whether that is being done for our benefit or without regard for our benefit is hotly debated and not something I am capable of answering. Candidly though, I don’t think the elites of this world care less about us and if we come to be regarded as a “useless burden”, the outlook might be bleak.
Now let’s look at some ways we can continue to be indispensable.
A simple yet excellent survival concept is the notion of being useful. Usefulness will be critical to our survival in future. In a post-apocalyptic scenario, the person with gold bars and no skills is in much greater danger than the person with advanced medical training and no money. The latter will be defended by the community because they are a useful asset; the former is likely to be viewed as more valuable dead than alive. Sorry but it is true. If you wish to survive, it is not advisable to be seen as a loaded galleon with no usefulness to others. If You Want To Survive, Stay Useful. This has always been true and always will be.
So in order to thrive in the coming times – start to think about what humans can do that robots can’t. What unique value can you provide? And, to take the famous old ice hockey metaphor, be prepared to look not just at where the puck is now, but where it will be, and start preparing yourself to skate to where it is going to be.
Although automation will certainly replace every kind of mechanical and even decision based task, the need for “the human touch” may well reach new heights. In a world where “the unreal” comes to the fore, it may be counterbalanced by intensifying desire for “the real”. Hand made goods, personalized services, artistry, personal care and tightly-knit communities are some that spring to mind. Being a good communicator is as important as ever. What else can you think of?
Robots are good at getting boring stuff done but are not very good at creativity. So it may be that creativity becomes even more valuable. We are already seeing it in fact. With Youtube for example. Many people who are ultra-creative are thriving in these times and making a full time living from Youtube – building a following which then pays them back – potentially handsomely, in ad revenue, sponsorship opportunities and affiliate income. I don’t want to be Google’s b***h any more than you do, but it will not be the only platform. If a platform becomes oppressive, then new opportunity for fairer platforms will arise. I hear that Parler is currently experiencing massive platform growth. Such will always be the way of things – new opportunities will always arise through the cracks. Look out for these.
Its hard to say if the future is “good or bad”. It will be both. It will not be like the present, and it will be different things to different people. Its happening, we cant stop it and things are going to change an awful lot. Viewed from one angle, there is actually incredible opportunity, like never before. You can reach over a billion people now. In the old days there was no way to do that. And the world needs you – you just have to find your gift. Be prepared, be open to change, be flexible, adaptable, nimble of foot and the future can be yours.
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What REALLY Happens When You Bury a Shipping Container? (Hint: It's A Bit Crazy...)
Shipping containers are all the rage - but if you are thinking about buying one, you MUST watch this video first:
There's a general belief that if you bury a shipping container you can create an awesome root cellar / storm shelter / survival bunker.
But is a shipping container strong enough to handle the pressure?
Watch the video to see what happens: