The saving grace of the approaching robot jobpocalypse might be that nobody, yet, is taking it literally. The regular flare-ups of the “immigrants are taking your jobs” rhetoric has led to actual hate crimes, but even amidst exaggeration around the automation of millions of jobs, no one has yet, to my knowledge, taken a vengeful sledgehammer to a router. Which isn’t to say people aren’t taking the possibility seriously that their careers with be automated out of existence
“My job will be obsolete because of robots within five years,” one software developer friend told me. “Oh, not necessarily…” I started. “It will,” he snapped.
I probably should have changed the subject. Clearly, he was convinced and didn’t want to be burdened with insipid optimism. Instead I told him, “My parents warned me off being a writer because it wasn’t ‘safe’. And it is definitely insecure — but at least it’s safe from robots.”
I should have changed the subject, as it turns out, because this made him even more furious than the possibility his own career would be automated. He told me that my job definitely could be taken by a robot, that there were already robots producing news pieces as well as any journalist, and that I was clearly in denial.
“But I write travel pieces and essays and memoirs,” I responded.
“So… can a robot write about finding a loved one dead?”
“But it won’t be true. Who would want to read that?”
“You’re just in denial.”
“How can a robot write about learning how to bake sourdough bread in Spain?”
“They’ll assemble it from copy provided by the travel company.”
“But…that’s just an advertisement, isn’t it?”
There was a pause, which he broke, quite loudly: “YOU’RE JUST IN DENIAL.”
At that point, I did change the subject.
“Shouldn’t the long term goal of any society be complete unemployment?” the comedian Doug Stanhope said in 2011. “Where’s…