The Future is Here yet We Remain Unaware

My posts The Job Terminator and Are Jobs Gone for Good? allude to a future where robots, droids, computers, and technology control the world and take jobs from everyone.  I am writing again on this subject because I believe that many people still don’t realize that the future is already here.  I don’t want to sound like an alarmist but there is good cause to be concerned.  I was a chip manufacturing and design engineer before my retirement and saw how automated chip making was.  People primarily moved cassettes of wafers from one machine to another while the machines did everything else.  I was working in a 25-year-old wafer fabrication facility before retiring.  In the newest facilities where even the small amounts of contamination could mean the death of chip making everything is done by robotics and computers.  Humans, who are a source of so much contamination, are only allowed in very limited numbers wearing space like suits to maintain the machines.  The steps taken to make the hundreds of millions or billions of MOS transistors that are crammed into each memory and CPU chip in our computers, tablets, and cell phones is extraordinarily complex and precise requiring close to absolute cleanliness.

So for those in the high-tech chip making industry you already know that the future has been here for more than a decade.  If chip making can be fully automated so can just about any industry and manufacturing facility.  What other technology or industry has the complexity and ultra-precision of chip making?  Chip making requires total automation to become feasible so huge capital investments were made early on out of necessity.  Modern wafer fabrication facilities typically cost multiple billions of dollars to build and equip.  So it’s a matter of how much capital other industries can afford to spend to implement automation.  The technological know-how is already here for automating most industries.  Many have already been slowly automating and permanently eliminating jobs for decades.  Auto(car) assembly plants and the postal service are a couple of examples where automation has replaced jobs for decades.

If money were not a consideration likely more than 75% of all jobs could be replaced by automation.  But it’s now prohibitively expensive to completely automate.  Jobs requiring creativity and innovations may take a decade or so longer to replace but there are likely few if any jobs that are irreplaceable by extraordinarily adaptable machines and extremely smart computers.  The super computer of a decade ago are the everyday laptops of today.

So the writing is clearly on the wall.  Automation is very likely to replace most middle class jobs in the not too distant future.  Even construction is becoming more modular and amenable to automation.  As automation becomes more affordable industries will start adopting it more extensively.  Automation demands no salaries or benefits or lunch/rest breaks or vacations.  Automation does not strike or complain and is capable of far more tireless efficiency.  So there is little doubt it will be adopted wherever possible by industries as it becomes increasingly affordable.

Moore’s law states that transistor chip density and technological advancements will double every two year.  So in 10 years technology will have advanced 32 fold.   It may be only a few more years before people will seriously feel the pain of higher permanent unemployment due to jobs being replaced by automation.  People have already been feeling its sting for a few decades now so for many the future has already arrived.  Fewer checkout clerks are now needed since goods packaged by automation with barcodes are quickly scanned for efficient checkout making it possible to replace 5 to 10 checkout clerks with one.  This is only one of many examples of how automation is steadily encroaching on jobs at a faster rate than new job can be created.

So what will the world look like as people progressively lose jobs?  Will the unemployed rapidly descend into poverty due to the lack of income?  Will the government provide them with a permanent income, like a permanent unemployment check or Social Security checks every month?  Where will the government get money for these checks if there are no workers paying taxes due to permanent unemployment?  Will there be much demand for goods and services provided by robots if no one can afford them?  Will society change from a monetary system to something else if no one earns money any more?  If everyone is unemployed what will people do with all their time since there is no money to spend?  How will we acquire the goods and services we need to carry on life such as food, fuel, clothing, etc. without money?  Will people revolt due to rampant poverty and unemployment?  These are only a sample of questions I have about the future.

How can we slow down this progression of pointless progress, like a overachieving child with no direction or purpose?

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