McDonald’s (only kosher in Israel) is debating whether to replace it’s workers with robots. See "McDonald’s To Open 25,000 Robot-Run Restaurants By 2016." Yes, it is 2016 and yes we are actually having this conversation and no one is flipping out. Why?
We are living in the age of sci-fi and because we are in the middle of it, we aren’t stopping to ask the hard questions. This is typically during any big event or transition in history. We ask how did it happen, how did people not notice until it was too late?
I am not saying that this will be terrible or great, but asking instead: How are we not reflecting on the gravity of such a change?
It can be argued that the two greatest changes mankind went through was the invention of farming and the industrial revolution. Farming changed mankind’s everyday survival from one of hunting and gathering to one of tilling the earth. When we began farming, people became sedentary and transitioned away from ‘hunting and gathering.’ The farming lifestyle lead to communities, towns, cities and soon empires. This also began a change in the class system, where an elite formed. These were people with the time to think. They became the religious class, ruling class and philosophers that we think of. But for the sake of brevity, the invention of farming changed the trajectory of mankind forever, ending the thousands of years of wandering.
Fast forward thousands of years to the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. The industrial revolution was the beginning of the world we are accustomed to today; one where everything and anything we want is at our fingertips. The revolution made food a commodity that can be found on every corner or brought to our door. Still, it is people who are essential to this process, from planting to consuming.
The food industry is but one sector of an economy, but it seems the most relevant because now with the advent of robots, where do people fit in? We will consume it, but will we even need to drive through somewhere to pick it up? By implementing robots in their restaurants, are these fast food companies even asking whether people will take the time and effort to bring their physical being there to eat? If we can have robots serve food, shouldn’t we be able to robots deliver it too?
I only pose these questions because if we can have machines soon handle every aspect of but one industry, we must digest the notion that soon they will handle nearly every industry. We are on the verge of a 3rd major human revolution in but a few hundred years from the last. We skipped the thousands of years between!
And let’s make one thing clear, this will not happen overnight or in the next few years because humanity will continue to be just that, human. I am an attorney, and the one constant I see is how bad people make everything. You can flip that concept, but in things aren’t going to be perfect anytime soon.
So I only ask you, how do you see yourself playing a productive role in the revolutionary changed world to come? What jobs can humans do or contribute to? What will so many people do with so much time on their hands? How will we take care of people if there will not be any jobs for them to do in the first place?
This change can be wonderful or disastrous, but that is up to us and what we believe our future to be. Do we aspire for greater things or for personal pleasure and fear of pain? Do we live in a world of WALL -E where we become overweight consumers who don’t do much of anything or reach for growth and self-perfection?
I am an optimist, but I just want you to ask yourself the same question; what will we do when we don’t have anything to do?