In this time and age, nearly everyone has heard about automation. Be it robots in car assembly lines, automated servers, or even that Roomba that gets stuck in odd places, it is undeniable that our lives are becoming more and more entangled with automation.
It is true that automation can lead to improvements in living quality. Hazardous jobs in manufacturing, such as industrial paint-spraying, can now be done by robots. Companies can also provide consumers with cheaper goods, as automation tends to cost less than human labour.
However, too much of a good thing can be harmful, and in this case, “harmful” is a major understatement. According to the Canadian government, up to 7.5 million jobs may be lost in Canada in the future due to automation. If automation continues its course, our future generations, and perhaps even Millennials, may face widespread unemployment, causing civil unrest and, in extreme cases, the collapse of governments.
Of course, continuing automation does not necessarily mean that the civilised world as we know it will end. However, it is undeniable that automation left as-is, poses a threat to the livelihoods of many, as well as to social stability. As such, automation is an issue that needs to be urgently addressed.
There are currently three methods of dealing with the impending disaster, which does NOT include anarcho-primitivism. The first is a UBC (Universal Basic Income). The definition of a UBC is that a government provides citizens with an allowance of sorts, guaranteeing that they will be able to sustain themselves and their families, albeit under poor conditions. While the provision of a UBC may seem like a good solution, it is, in reality, a poor solution to the problem. When companies have completely replaced workers with machines, and the general populace has to use a government-provided allowance to purchase basic necessities, then a large income gap will form. Owners of said companies obtain large quantities of capital from the masses, while the average person has no way of lifting themselves out of poverty, for there are no jobs to be had. This will still lead to large-scale civil unrest and the likely eradication of the middle class.
One may argue that small businesses provide an alternate method for the creation of jobs. However, many small businesses have no way to compete with larger corporations, especially once human workers are replaced with cheaper and more efficient machines, causing goods produced by large corporations to be cheaper, and likely of higher quality, than goods produced by small businesses. The same goes for services. Smaller legal firms, banks, clinics have no way of competing with large corporations that have access to more capital, and therefore better equipment. The only exception to this would be more specialised services, such as mom-and-pop restaurants, but only a small portion of the general population would be able to run such a business.
The second method is a communist system. Under communism, full automation is a good thing, because everybody has their basic necessities guaranteed, and are free to live however they want. Under communism, nobody has to worry about finding a job. However, considering the state of mind of many people in the 21st century, this solution, although ideal, is highly unrealistic.
The third and final method is to ban automation. This is the most realistic method that would slam the brakes on the impending disaster. Of course, banning automation does not mean banning robots, which are vital in ensuring the safety of some workers, and create jobs to replace the ones they destroy. By banning automation, governments can ensure that corporations are forced to hire workers, creating jobs. Although corporations may lobby governments to reject bills proposing the banning of automation, educated citizens can, in theory, elect socialist politicians who oppose automation, assuming there are any. Passing laws banning automation, as well as laws improving worker’s rights, are the best solutions to ensure that the average working-class person can live comfortably.
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