My friends and I, 2 of which are computer science majors think it is worse because is humans can't work and thus afford necessities, how will they survive? The definition of automation: the use of largely automatic equipment in a system of manufacturing or other production process. "unemployment due to the spread of automation"

It is to reduce human intervention mainly in order for tasks to more economically efficient and save on paying unions, benefits to employees, as well as human workers. A business starts with one person let's say, an assembler. He hires a few other people to assembly more work he's getting, and eventually has a whole factory. He is able to buy 2 robotic arms and use them to cut his human workforce in half, not needing let's say 20 guys out of 40 he had. A few years later he buys two more robotic arms and the rest are laid off. He now only needs a few men (3-4) for monitoring and repairs. BUT once the CEO can buy technology to fix the robots, pretty much all left is observers, but then the CEO eventually just wakes up, hits a switch, and begins building. He's rich, made his own job, made his living, he'll probably be fine.

HOWEVER, not everyone has the mindset or means to be an entrepreneur or innovator. ALSO because the CEOs and owners invested and made their own business, how can they be hated in a fair way? They should have this right since the whole thing is their ownership and job, it just needed other people for a while.

ALSO, during this time, new jobs were made like the observers and robot repair people. They were eventually automated out too. This is being done for drivers, surgeons, pilots, military, security, construction, even cashiers are replaced by self check outs now. They have tested a truck that drives itself, size of a delivery one for products. Drones are already delivering things.

Therefore, I can't see (and neither can others) how advancing technology to be more self-sufficient in itself is good when people will eventually no longer be able to find work and thus afford medical care, food, housing, clothing...from that, it would for the majority (not those who are stocked on riches and resources and were innovated enough to prepare themselves) cause economic collapse. Due to lack of taxpayers now and there be less flow of the economy anyways, a communist type system would unlikely happen so nobody starves or freezes.

Thoughts...does it have a better impact as many I've heard say, or all in all realistically, have a worse one (in the long run at the very least)?

  • $\begingroup$ I know I've asked this before, but I am trying to be more specific as told and include my own research and insight from what I've heard, seen, and studied. So any links, clarification, answering as a whole, greatly appreciated. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – Bruno1993
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ I SHOULD ADD: Others have said to me, it IS what is best for the human race. Because it has shown to create a safer and cleaner life. As well as helping achieve things not possible. That still does not answer the economic factor though. $\endgroup$
    – Bruno1993
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ Why do people suppose that the next technological innovation is going to destroy society, in direct opposition to the beneficial aspects of technology throughout all of history? It's like how there's always doomsday cultists who are convinced the world is going to end during their lifetime, and they'll still be going a thousand years from now. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 18:59

6 Answers 6


Would you rather work with a tractor or shovel?

Would you rather use one hand to work or two?...

Mathemathically the formula is:

$$EL = \mathrm{GDP}_r$$

That is, efficiency ($/h) times hours worked per year equals the real GDP. Same is true for your personal life and personal income. Now, if efficiency decreases, you must either work more or live with less, which is not what anyone wants. Note that even as you increase your efficiency, there is little evidence that such thing decrease someone else's efficiency. So thus the result is income inequality and not "lack of necessities". That means, those with lower IQs generally earn less (since IQ is the primary driver of differences in efficiency between people)...

For the example in question, it seems that efficiency has increased, and at least temporarily the L term has decreased (even though the robot arm builders obviously still need to be employed). However, the cheaper robot arms make it easier for other sectors to accommodate people. So more likely result is a sectoral shift in the labor force, which is what historically has always happened. That is, the factory workers take pay cut, but demand for labor increases in a other sector providing a pay increase and more jobs to that sector. Historically L remains the same but E increases for the whole economy.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Could you please refer your source for the claim "since IQ is the primary driver of differences in efficiency between people"? $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ @denesp By definition a more intelligent person is going to make more efficient choices. For example: aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/20040302_book443.pdf $\endgroup$
    – Dole
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 18:49
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I don't see how that is true "by definition". Thank you for the source material, I'll read it. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 20:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @denesp By definition, since intelligence is defined as the ability to utilize your abilities, meaning a person of higher intelligent is going to outperform a person of lower intelligence efficiency wise. Of course what the actual IQ tests measure is a different thing (but most likely at least highly correlated with performance, given the results). $\endgroup$
    – Dole
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 17:10
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ As you say what the IQ tests measure is quite different. What you claim to be the definition is very reasonable but I have never heard anyone claim that it was an actual definiton. $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 18:38

@Dole answer is correct.

Also, be aware that we often fail to foresee future evolutions. The Luddites failed to see that machines would not harm the people and the workers. Today's problem are quite similar, and it is not suprising that we have trouble to imagine how the future will be.

CGP Grey's video Human need not apply represents very well this tendency that we have not to be able to see what is coming next. It might be frightening, we should definitely think about it, but even though we cannot represent ourselves what is coming next, their is no need for fear.

Thanks to technological progress, our civilization has considerably improved. Our lives are more comfortable today than dozens of year before, and more and more people around the world manage to climb out of poverty thanks to technological change. Everybody might not directly benefit from these changes, but the overall effect is clear. I do not see any reason why the same technological progress which has helped us during hundreds of years should become harmful in the future.

  • $\begingroup$ what do you mean "managed to climb out of poverty thanks to poverty?" AND I do agree life is much better than the 1800's or 30's; BUT even if all these services and technology that make life better continue, how will people afford it if no one (or a majority) don't have jobs? In 20 years I see stores dying out, but online shopping increasing. Someone orders a car online, it is built by robots or 3d printers, it drives itself to you, and you're likely rich and able to afford. Cause usually students work these little jobs being killed, so how will they afford an education as well? $\endgroup$
    – Bruno1993
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Bruno1993 my bad, I meant technological change. I edited accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – Hector
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Bruno1993 Education is an investment into human capital (your efficiency), and as such it can easily be funded by debt, even if no collateral exists. As such, it doesn't matter whether the pupil has a job or not (even not considering the case that 3rd party providers don't pay for it). Also take into consideration that the education would be very cheap as robots provided it. Then, the pupil would be able to complete his education and move to a job, thus becoming extremely wealthy. The scenario is of course, completely fabricated and not supported by empiricism. $\endgroup$
    – Dole
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Dole if the scenario you said is fabricated why did you bring it up? ALSO if things are going to become better and cheaper as you say, which I do want to believe, why is inequality and cost of living increasing for most of society? Those who become engineers and doctors may be ok since they are the ones innovating progress in society but not everyone is. So I don't understand your comment with these two unanswered... $\endgroup$
    – Bruno1993
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 3:46
  • $\begingroup$ "The Luddites failed to see that machines would not harm the people and the workers" - but, they did? Just as predicted, total production is higher, but so is inequality. Your average wage now buys much less living space than it used to, precisely because labour is worth less. So how can one prove the people have not been harmed? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 24, 2022 at 15:25

While change causes anxiety, and there's definitely some jobs that are going to go away, its easy to imagine, water carriers getting anxious with the invention of pipes, scribes with the invention of the print, farmers with the invention of the tractor, weavers with the invention of automatic weavers, etc. we're not at the cusp of one momentous revolution, its just one incremental step of slow technical advance that has been happening for centuries.

Some people think of these things like this:

A) In principle, technology and automation are beneficial to an economy and its citizens. The idea is basically that technology lets you produce more goods with less effort. For example, instead of planting an acre in a day by hand, you plant 10 acres in a day with a tractor. You get lots of free time after using the tractor! We have had about three or four hundred years of fantastically rapid technological change in the planet, and we are doing much better than we were before this happened: people live longer, easier lives, have more fun, face less pain and sickness and hunger, feel less cold, spend more time with family and friends, etc.

B) Another useful paradigm is the "ciclical flow": somebody's consumption is somebody else's income and vice-versa: The workers get fired, the CEOs produce without workers and then the CEOs have to ... sell the output to somebody. The CEOs don't get rich unless there is somebody to buy the goods, so automation only enriches the CEOs if on average the workers have income to buy with. Similarly the CEOs are only rich in the sense that he can purchase services from the workers. The CEO's consumption is the workers income...

C) However, it is clear that if you are currently employed in a job that disappears because of technical change, that individual technical change will not be good for you. It will be good for the owner and designer of the machine. It will be good for everybody else that benefits from the lower costs of production. But it won't be good for you. It will require that you find a another job, that you learn a new technology, that you become the machinist of the machine that substituted your work, or something like that.

D) This feature of the labor market, that some jobs disappear for no fault of the worker, but because of technical change, is mostly an accepted situation in most modern societies. In principle, we accept this cost because it lets us all have a dynamic economy that adapts to change and embraces progress. Unemployment insurance partly helps in reducing the risks to individuals of this continuous "churning" of jobs. States and nations often have retraining programs that help people displaced by technology (or by trade).

E) However, it is still a very risky job market out there and everybody that wishes to stay constantly employed needs to invest time in acquiring new skills and anticipating the effects of technical change.


Economics cannot answer your question.

Economics as a discipline discarded normative assumptions ("what is good?") in order to deal with issues around price. This was a sound academic decision (Hey bro, how much for your kidney, no seriously, how much for both your kidneys). As a result economics don't answer for "better" but for "more."

There is another discipline, called "political economy," which attempts to answer questions about "value" and "worth." Famously Utilitarianism failed abysmylly on the question of relating one worth to another worth. Like a notable "oh my god that's valid" failure. We know that one person's opinion of what is worthy cannot be equated to another (or many other) people's opinion of what is worthy. My lubricated hot tub evening cannot be ethically related to thousands of starving children.

Finally there was this chap, an important chap, German, historical materialist, communist, called Fred Engels who pointed to the reorganisaton of modern societies as being based on power, not morality. His historical results are considered suasive.

Your question, in effect, makes no sense.

It can't be answered by economics because economics as a discipline abandoned "good."

It can't be answered by bourgeois political economists because they proved that good and good are incomparable and not reducible to comparison.

It won't be answered by anti-bourgeois political economists because they're busy investigating how and when the working class will attempt to kill their masters.

Why does 4 x 5 = -2?

  • $\begingroup$ I upvoted this answer because it says this is a political question rather than an economic one, but the end of it has a bit too much conspiracy and nonsense. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 12:49

We are witnessing the biggest industrial and tech revolution that has ever happened in written history and only a fraction of the population is or was prepared thus far.

What i find very interesting is, hard labor hand work is dying out or shifted to wage dumping countries, this is a clear trend. As already outlined by another poster, "humans need not apply" is well worth to watch.

Fortunately for me, i ended up in a job at the core of this revolution. To be more specific i manage to build a company with just me as workforce - plus a taxman and some 3rd party software providers and a freelancer time to time.

From this viewpoint, i don't see any other solution but the introduction of a automation tax and a revolution in the education sector. Lets take the ecommerce gaint for example, yes they created a lot of jobs in the first place but those jobs will be replaced one by one with automation.

  • $\begingroup$ I am gradating soon to work in the PR/Journalism field. I'm worried not just for me but the young in my family, future kids...can humans survive in a world run on automation? How will food be distributed? Medicine? It all scares me, feels like economic collapse.? $\endgroup$
    – Bruno1993
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think you need a specific tax for automation? (and it runs into problems defining what is automation and what isn't). Just call it tax and give everyone UBI. As long as the amount of work needed to keep everyone alive is a small fraction of the work people actually do, that should be enough. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 12:50

Who says humans need to work to earn a living?

The economy needs productivity. The economy do not need your work. It needs productive works.

Do you know what is the greatest source of productivity?


Think about it.

Alice salary is USD 10 an hour. Bob, an immigrant, or android, cost USD 1 an hour. Government prohibits Bob from replacing Alice. Did the economy improves?

The way I see it is Alice is still not productive even though she is working. Government act of prohibiting Bob from replacing Alice cost the whole economy $9 an hour.

That means customers must pay for more expensive service, yada yada yada.....

If work is not the main source of productivity, what is the main source of productivity? What makes a country wealthy?

FREEDOM (imagine Mel Gibson voice at the end of brave heart)

Most inefficiency in economy happens because governments disrespect individual freedom.

Why not just "bribe" the voters so that they embrace freedom?

Think about it.

See that programmer in California? A few LSD and he can build another facebook. But it's illegal. So? Tax LSD. Money.

Look at rich billionaire buying expensive branded items leaving in expensive suburb. Surely they want to stay that way and save. Tax land. Tax expensive items. Tax luxury.

Oh look at Bob, a billionaire with no children. What would all his money go when he died? Legalize prostitution. Let Bob hire women to breed and breed and breed. Bob can give $1 million to each of his descendant. Bob produce 1000 descendants. Then?

Tax children. Each children dilute value of citizenship. Tax them. And only the productive have children. Tada. Less unemployment.

Give the money as citizen dividend for all adult citizens.

Then? Then voters and the mobs will have strong incentive to make the land free and save.

It'll be what the libertarian wish except that there are some small regressive tax on consumption or leaving in expensive land.

There are many many solutions to automation is taking our job. Think abundance.


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