In his dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell wrote that “Big Brother is watching.” Will Big Brother still be watching us in 2084? Currently, the United States has terabytes of the written and oral conversations of its citizens. Homeland Security scours phone calls, e-mails, and social media searching for threats against the country. Computer programs scan for words like nuclear war or shoe bomb. Of course, government agencies don’t usually put the pieces together until after the horse leaves the stable. Then they find evidence that warned about everything in complete detail. They always have enough information after the fact to know who did it, but, in the end, the dastardly deeds still got done. By the time they can act, the damage is already done.
Our government has the capability to digitize everyone’s telephone calls, but they don’t have the ability to process this incredibly vast amount of data. Technology will give the government the tools to know everything, but man’s bumbling, the government’s well-known inefficiency, and just the vast quantity of the collected data will ultimately save us from the threat of Big Brother.
The difference between Big Brother in 1984 and now, was that in the book the government was constantly informing the citizens that Big Brother was watching. Today, they are constantly denying that they are spying on their own citizens. They only record your conversations, they say. They don’t actually listen in on them, they say. Become a political activist, though, and you can be sure that they’ll call-up every conversation, e-mail, and posting you’ve ever made looking for ways to discredit or imprison you. Hit the gas when the traffic light turns yellow, and if you don’t make it across the intersection before the light turns red, you just might find a traffic ticket in your mailbox a few days later. Big Brother may be a bureaucratic stumblebum, but he is indeed watching.
By 2084 we’ll have bigger problems than Big Brother, though. I’m not just talking about Global Climate Change, either. Hopefully, the brightest and the best will figure out ways to solve that problem, once we pull our heads out of our asses and realize that it is a real problem. The big problem in 2084 is going to be jobs. There aren’t going to be many. There is going to be a severe job shortage, when artificially-intelligent robots are doing most of the work.
In the old days, we thought that having machines do all the work would lead to a utopia. That was back when we all got long better. Now, though, I think it will lead to dystopia, because we will not want to pay people for doing nothing, even when there is nothing to do.
Years ago, when you went to the supermarket, a clerk would have to check each item for a price and total them up on a cash register. Then bar codes came in. Now, cashiers can scan each item as quickly as the conveyor belt can move. You can even do it yourself, and cashiers are no longer necessary.
The problem with labor-saving devices is that employees don’t share in the benefits. Instead, the stores make more profit as employees are laid off. The quixotic will tilt at windmills and refuse to use the cashier-less checkout. They will wind up on long lines as only one window will be open to the anti-self-scanners. Their pleas to open up more windows will fall upon deaf ears, and their screaming children will eventually make them give up the battle.
Several hamburger restaurants opened recently with robot short-order cooks flipping burgers. They even have built in sensors that detect the temperature of the burger and remove it from the heat when it is cooked to the exact perfect temperature.
Robot drivers will revolutionize the trucking industry, the taxi industry, and the automatic drivers will probably even have sidekick robots or drones to help them make deliveries. Millions will be out of work, but the people who own the robots will be rich, very, very rich. They’ll still hire a few live servants, just for the thrill of it, but robots will do all the major work. There will be a few jobs for programmers in the robotics industry, but eventually AI will write better programs than the human programmers.
Robots will pick up the garbage, sweep the streets, work with hazardous material, and they do not need vacations or down time. They might even recharge themselves automatically with solar power while they work.
Rock N Roll will never die. People will always want to hear live bands. Some robot bands might form, but they’ll never be as good as live bands, even if they sound better.
Probably there will still be human dentists, but they might have robot hygienists and robot receptionists helping them out. Robots will make your clothes and clean them. There won’t even be jobs for shoeshine boys, because robots will do that too.
Baseball players, football players, and race-car drivers will probably still be in demand, because there would be little thrill in watching a robot crash or take a vicious hit. Artists will be popular, because the rich will still like to collect art. Poets might still be around too, and novelists and screenwriters. Nobody wants computer-generated poetry or movie scripts. Computer-generated actors will replace humans, though. They are already here. Plus, they have the advantage that Clint Eastwood can be a young Dirty Harry, or a cantankerous old man depending upon which one the director wants to use, and Clint Eastwood doesn’t even have to be on set.
When computers came in and you were able to do the work of 10 people, did your salary increase tenfold? No, you might have gotten a small raise, while 9 of your co-workers reported to Unemployment. As technology advances, there will be less and less work for humans to do, but laborers will not benefit from labor-saving devices. Unemployment may reach 80-90%.
Will the ultra-wealthy pay a guaranteed minimum salary to everyone who is out of work? Not willingly. They are already fostering the idea that people who don’t work shouldn’t even get unemployment benefits. What will happen in 2084 when there is little work? Who will provide the unemployed with food, clothing, shelter, and a little entertainment, so that everyone can live in peace in a little utopia? The government? Not likely, since the governments will be broke, because corporations don’t pay taxes, and corporations will have all the money.
Whoever owns the robots will get rich, and the rich will just get richer. The poor will scratch out a living or die.
What can we do to prevent this? We’re going to need a method of sharing the wealth. We need more employee-owned businesses, and we need the rich to take a smaller piece of the pie. Today, the ultra-rich who own sports teams, insure that they will make a healthy profit by instituting salary caps on the players. Perhaps we will have to apply salary caps on the ultra-rich. Let’s just say that we put an earnings cap at $1 billion a year. Everything that is earn over that will go to provide for the have nots. We have the numbers. There are more non-billionaires than billionaires. We can change the laws and “make America great again” for everyone. The ultra-rich can feed the poor instead of feeding off them, and if they don’t like it, they can just get in their rocket ships and go to Mars.
Peace & Love, and all of the above,