The Social implications - what will we do all day long?
Last year I was on a business trip to London and couldn´t sleep.I went out for a walk about three in the morning and was surprised to find that some Supermarkets were open 24/7. I went inside to buy a few bits and pieces and saw that there was an Automated checkout system - you scan and weigh your goods and pay per credit card or cash without any human contact. I had never seen this before and was quite bemused by it - another technological advance that had passed me by. On my return to Germany I saw that IKEA are implementing this system and that almost all of the big Supermarket chains here are testing it. This got me to thinking about the work and social implications of the Singularity
It is only a matter of time before this technology sweeps across the Country, making many checkout cashiers obsolete. Is this the next big spike in the unemployment figures...all of these people who do this "simple" job will eventually be replaced by a machine. What alternatives are open to them?
Find a new job? - this may prove difficult as they may not have Qualifications and all the "Simple" jobs are diminishing pretty fast as they are being replaced by machines.
Retraining? - I can only speak for Germany - anyone over 40 years old will not be considered for retraining - the return on the investment is apparently not good enough.
So we have all of these people with no job prospects and no chance of retraining, probably living on State benefits and possibly vegetating their lives away.
A portion of them may have some talent or business idea that they can turn into a moneyspinner or at least earn enough to become independent of the Welfare State. Another Portion may drift off into Alchohol or Drug abuse to escape from their boring existence. Another portion may be happy with their lot.
Like Rats in an experiment we have become conditioned to the "Rat race" - We exchange our time in return for Money and are used to going out to work for eight hours per day, 5 days a week. This is the accepted norm to which everyone should aspire. Unfortunately this model is no longer current and will become even less of a viable option in the future.
So what are the alternatives?. I believe that the very Centre point of our lives will change.....Machines and technology will take over the running of many facets of our daily life and as there is no "Work" in the classic sense, people will turn to other pursuits to occupy their time - The Arts, Music, self education - indeed time itself will be measured differently - no longer 8 hours Work, 8 hours play and 8 hours sleep...instead a much more natural rhythm where activities are not dictated by a 12 or 24 Time system. If we cast a glance at some of the Tribal peoples, they don`t have clocks - they have a "Rhythm of life".
I am in the fortunate position of being able to make a living from my talents. I am a Working Musician and I also do Sound and Graphic Design work too. My daily routine is dictated by my current mood and level of creativity - I work to the Beat of my own Drum. Sometimes I work deep into the night, sometimes days and nights without sleep and other times during the day (mostly in the Morning). I normally sleep for a couple of hours in the afternoon which I find is more refreshing than 8 hours straight at night.
I am Master of my own time - and that, I believe is an advantage that the coming singularity will bring us. The problem therein is that many people are not prepared for this - they are conditioned to what I call the 8/8/8 system and will have trouble adjusting. In being Master of my own time I have the freedom to pursue whatever takes my interest - be it another money spinning idea (I wish I had a couple more!), to widen my Network of friends, associates and potential business partners and to see how I can make my time work for me - that is the crux... my time works for me!
The Governments and Authorities of course have not and probably will not cater for this fundamental change in the work ethic - they have no answers and there is, I believe, very little energy and research devoted to this subject. What they do is to channel the people into social Welfare systems where there is, for many no perspective or alternative. The people who are forced to abide in these social welfare systems are not given much opportunity to "break out" and are in no way encouraged to do so. They are locked within the system and if they do not adhere to the rules, the State will Sanction them financially. They have no alternative, some may turn to crime and the potential for massive frustration is immense. The state knows this and has in the last few years been busy implementing the framework to control the Masses when the situation explodes into violence. (that's another Story though)
The state and the people themselves must begin to realize that in the future, there will not be enough "work" in the classic sense for an ever increasing population. Our whole system needs to be revamped to cater for the upcoming changes - unfortunately we hold onto old and outdated systems of Work, Education and finance and Block out everything that threatens these "proved and tested" ways of doing things.
These changes may well come earlier than we anticipate. Technology is starting to accelerate to a degree where we can no longer say with any conviction, what comes next. We have technologies that 10 years ago were not even thought of or envisioned - I believe that sooner rather than later we will have the "Event Horizon" where no one can say what lies beyond. This will probably be accompanied by the final crash of the financial system which will add to the chaos and the collapse of social structures as we know them.
The social implications of the Singularity are immense and could be very dangerous. The Checkout cashiers above are just one group that may become "Victims" of the Singularity. Warehouse workers are another... nowadays one person oversees a troop of Robots that do the work in the Warehouse. Everyday I see an increasing trend toward more technology, less personnel. Fast communication and Quantum technological leaps empower us to realize things that were, a few years ago, unimaginable.
We live in interesting times.