As technology develops, it becomes a lot more common for people to have access to basic rights. More and more people now have access to clean water. Clothing is now a commodity that’s available everywhere. Food from around the world can be found in any random supermarket.
What was once expensive is now cheap. That’s the result of growth and innovation, we find better, cheaper and more efficient ways to do something. We commoditize.
Look at where we’re at, we can now 3D print drugs. Factories are lined with robots instead of traditional workers. Self-driving cars are now in development and testing. Artificial intelligence (AI) is starting to remove the need for basic human thinker jobs.
Pretty soon, entire factories will be run by robots. Self-driving cars would revolutionize our transport system. We would no longer need pharmacies as everyone can just print their own medicine from the hospital. There might even be fewer doctors in the future as basic diseases and illnesses can be diagnosed and treated by AI.
Where does this lead us?
The more we commoditize, the harder it gets to earn a living. Prices go down and wages for associated jobs naturally follow. It’s a downward spiral to oblivion. The cheaper you go, the cheaper your competitor goes. Until you reach a point where it becomes difficult to even sustain yourself. At that point, you would just give up and play a different game.
Take doctors for example. Traditionally, you can be a doctor and earn a pretty comfortable salary. Nowadays, you don’t get such comfort unless you specialize in something. A general practitioner is at risk of being commoditized, there’s too many of them and AI is starting to get better and better at diagnosing simple illnesses.
If you aspire to be a doctor in the future, good luck. To earn a good salary, you really need to go deep and specialize in something AI can’t yet accomplish. In the meantime, how would you possibly earn a living if no one is looking to employ a general practitioner? Would you even want to study hard and specialize in something?
You might be inclined to believe that such changes aren’t likely in the near future. That the world of medicine is very cautious and conservative. But would you believe that such changes still aren’t likely in the far future? At our current pace, it would only be a matter of time before the inevitable happens.
Once the medical field is dominated by technology and AI, what will become of us? Would there still be anyone willing to study medicine? Or will AI do all that for us? What will we do with our lives if everything is done by robots?
Would we finally be free to enjoy life as we see fit? Would we finally be able to do whatever we want? How will we get the means to do so? How will we earn money? Or would money become a thing of the past?
Some people have proposed a system called the universal basic income, which is an unconditional income that keeps you above the poverty line. This would prevent automation from introducing poverty after taking away millions of job.
If you think about it, the purpose of technology is to make our lives easier. In the future, technology would be doing such a great job that it makes our lives so easy, there’s nothing to live for. We might not be so far from the world depicted by WALL-E, where everyone lives in virtual reality while being fed nutrients through IV drips to survive.
It’s interesting to think what would happen once AI matures. Would we finally achieve the freedom to live life as we want? Pursue our hobbies, travel and visit new places, hang out and socialize all day? Or would AI rob us of those pleasures? Would we find such activities to be meaningless in the future?
Then there’s the question of whether AI will achieve consciousness. What would happen if it deemed us humans as a waste of space? As nothing more than lazy sloths wasting precious resources? Or would humans be integrated with AI? As in, we would no longer have physical bodies? Or perhaps each human would have its own personalized AI buddy or something and there would be an AI population living in cyberspace, similar to a human population?
Let’s not get carried away and think so far ahead. The problem that’s happening now is the commoditization of jobs and products due to growth and innovation. But perhaps it is worth looking ahead of what other issues we might face once we go past this problem.
Some of my musings on the fallacy of growth and innovation. It’s good food for thought.