Robot Work Force: A Blessing or a Curse?

Posted 16 Oct 2003 at 16:49 UTC by steve Share This

Marshall Brain is stirring up more controversy. Roland Piquepaille notes in his blog that while Brain's last article "Robotic Nation" warned that robots could displace the human workforce causing massive unemployment, now he has done a 180 and is promoting the idea as a Utopian ideal he calls "Robotic Freedom". Imagine a world in which robots do all the work and humans are all on permanent vacation (government welfare). Everyone will become a creative artist and be happy, right? Marshall is a little late in stumbling onto these ideas. Science Fiction readers have been pondering this sort of thing for half a century. And if anyone, including Brain, actually believes "Robotic Freedom" is a good idea, they should read Jack Williamson's 1947 story, With Folded Hands and be very, very afraid. "To serve and obey and guard men from harm..."

Here a couple of previous articles on the subject of robots and the workforce:

Will Machines Run the World
Robot Burger Flippers are here

The human use of human beings, posted 16 Oct 2003 at 17:34 UTC by motters » (Master)

The cybernetics pioneer Norbert Wiener wrote a book called "the human use of human beings" on this subject. Doomsters have protested about the imminent relpacement of human labour by machines for decades (if not centuries going back to the luddites), but it has never really happened.

I've worked in industrial automation for a long time, and it is true that in some industries human labour has been almost entirely replaced, but the types of work which has been automated were really things that no sane human being would want to do (things like repetitive inspection/counting/sorting). In the glass industry where I work its amaizing to think that people actually did some of the jobs now being done by robots and computers. Looking back 50-100 years, these were tasks carried out in extreme heat, vibration and noise and industrial diseases, accidents and even deaths were commonplace. Only the most deperate or insane would be able to stand working under those conditions for long periods of time.

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