For June, 2015 I’m going to continue with cyberpunk as this month’s theme, that sub-genre of science fiction that has a very grim, dark, seedy view of our collective future. I will soon publish my take on the sub-genre which I outlined in my blog post last month titled: Cyberpunk Re-imagined – you can click HERE to view it. Basically, rather than imagine our future from the 1980s, I’d take our knowledge from 2015 and go back in time to the 1980s and imagine (or re-imagine) our future. To coin my own phrase: Retro Neo-Cyberpunk, or should I call it Neo Retro-Cyberpunk?
In all my books, serious issues and themes are a foundation and my upcoming cyberpunk, detective series will be no different. It will explore the society, in all its glory, quirks, and darkness like I so often do. One of those foundational themes that will run through the entire series is the impact of automation on the job market. Put another way: How many of our jobs will be “stolen” from us by machines?
Here’s a great article from Vivek Wadhwa, a technology entrepreneur, author, and academic: We’re Heading into a Jobless Future, No Matter What the Government Does.
I remember the days when you’d go to the mall here in Los Angeles, drive in, do your shopping, and drive out to pay the parking attendants in their tiny booths. They’re all gone. I can’t even remember when it happened, a decade ago? Your only interaction now is with machines, period. All those jobs are gone and they’ll never come back.
Some might say, “Good. Automation should eliminate unskilled jobs” or “they’ll find other jobs.” But even when I was a kid in the ‘80s, I thought this was a bit of silly thinking. Do we really believe that there will ever be a day that all the unskilled workers of the world will just get up and get skilled ones? They said this back at the time of the Industrial Revolution (about 1760 to around 1860). It hasn’t happened yet, but I don’t have to be able to see the future to know that it never will. There will always be unskilled jobs and unskilled workers. But what of it? Are skilled workers superior to unskilled workers? Are we as a society saying that unskilled work has no value? I don’t and have never thought so. All work can have value.
Usually, those who don’t care about people losing their jobs to growing automation are those who feel their jobs are secure. However, that is far from true. Understand that I myself am by no means a Luddite—my first computer in the late 80s, took programming classes in high school, and can figure out most consumer gadgets without the manual. But I also care about the impact of our ‘toys’ on us as human beings. The reality is that most jobs—unskilled and skilled—done by humans can be eliminated by machines; in fact, nearly all. Here’s another great article on the subject: Robots Bad News for Humans, Study Says by Victoria Stilwell.
That is the troubling aspect that society has not grappled with, but will soon be forced to deal with. What jobs should machines be allowed to take from us?
Such inevitability will radically change our world and us. Why an eight-hour work day? Why a five-day work week? Both are throwbacks to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. How about a twenty-hour work week? What the heck will people do with all this free time? I know the answer and actually so do you. Idleness in humans has never led to anything good and that’s the future we are heading to.
In the Star Trek Universe, humans evolve and abandon money, conflict, violence, and all those bad things. Instead they dedicate themselves to the “nobler things in life”—bettering themselves and the society. I am a Star Trek fan, but that is simply ridiculous. We actually have large pockets in America filled with “idle” people with all their real needs provided for by the government—they’re euphemistically called “inner cities.” Is anyone turning to nobler pursuits? We must never confuse theory (what we want to happen) with reality (what actually happens).
Some people are scared of the rise of drones, others the growing use of AI (artificial intelligence), but leaving both aside, the fear should be what we are doing to our own humanity because of our constant automation of everything—the rise of the machines (sorry for the Terminator reference).
In my current After Eden series, I only touch upon this concept of machines doing most of the jobs. The result is a society consumed by drugs, sex, vid-games (video games), and spontaneous suicide. All this when they’re not persecuting one group or another. But in my new upcoming cyberpunk series, I directly explore this concept. What happens to people when the robots do all the work and only thing people have to do is sit back and…exist?
#Cyberpunk #ScienceFiction #Robots #Jobs
Austin Dragon is the author of over 20 books in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror. His works include the cyberpunk detective LIQUID COOL series, the epic fantasy FABLED QUEST CHRONICLES, the international epic AFTER EDEN Series, the classic SLEEPY HOLLOW HORRORS, and new military sci-fi PLANET TAMERS series. He is a native New Yorker but has called Los Angeles, California home for more than twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, ex-political junkie, movie buff, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, futurist, and dreamer.