Tuesday, 14 May 2013


During the Industrial Revolution, machines were limited to performing physical tasks. The Digital Revolution is different because computers can perform cognitive tasks too, and that means machines will eventually be able to run themselves. When that happens, they won't just put individuals out of work temporarily. Entire classes of workers will be out of work permanently. In other words, the Luddites weren't wrong. They were just 200 years too early.
I used to be quite cocky in my belief that robots will never be able to replace the core functions of humanity (pizza making, Chilean wine horticulture and writing how-to-write-your-first-novel books) but then, about 30 minutes ago, I read this rather brilliant article in Mother Jones and I finally got it: the robots are getting smarter, just one sushi arm, one chess game, one driverless vehicle, one baseball sports report at a time. But with the doubling of memory every 18 months or so, by about 2030, the world economy will be so entirely dependent on smart computers and robots that we folk who thought we had some economic value selling our labour may find we're shit out of luck. If we're not already.

With apologies to Maekawa Senpan for the ripped-off art.

1 comment:

RMilner said...

One might hope that with machines to do all the drudge work we could kick back and only do stuff that interests us. Somehow it won't happen like that, though. It will probably turn into one of those cyberpunk futures in which only rich people have any money.