Imagine a country where AI takes all the jobs so that no human being is working. How will it be like? To many people, that means hell – human civilization may soon end since we no longer control our own survival. But to others, that signifies the advent of new life, where mankind can finally get rid of labor and focus on something more valuable.
So, which outlook is correct? Well, the honest answer is that there is no way to tell at this point. Ahead of us are endless possibilities, and as the Danish physicist, Niels Bohr, said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t think about and discuss the matter. On the contrary, considering the gravity of such issue, it’s exactly the subject that we should be contemplating today. In this article, we invite you to examine a possible version of mankind’s future with us. Spoiler alert! Our story does have a happy ending, and we will explain step by step that why we aren’t worrying too much about AI taking all of our jobs. Let’s begin!
The economic circuitry
To begin with, we must realize how important “keeping money moving” is to economy. As a matter of fact, economic system is just like an electric circuitry. If electrons (representing currency) do flow in the wires, the devices in the circuit will function normally (that is, the economy is healthy). If not, then everything will stop eventually (see Figure 1).
The figure above illustrates how modern society makes currency flow in a simplified fashion. As you can see, individuals can earn money through working. Then, money will flow away from the individual when he or she spends it on something (in return, the individual will gain what he or she needs to survive). For the convenience of our discussion, we’ll refer to this model as the “work-and-spend” model in the future.
It’s interesting to note that making money moves away from ourselves is significantly easier than the reverse. And because of that perhaps, while we know thousands of ways to have cash disappear from our pocket, most people only know one approach to get cash (at least legally) – working (by working, we mean to “sacrifice your time, talent, happiness, health, or even safety to create values for other(s)”). In the next section, you shall see that although working does play an irreplaceable role for now, the situation can change drastically when AI gets involved.
Put AI into the picture
So far, we haven’t put artificial intelligence into our “work-and-spend” model shown in Figure 1. What will happen if we do so? Short answer: the money “current” may stop since robots do not need money, and that’s exactly why AI worries some people (Figure 2).
Now we see the problem, but how can we solve it? You may realize that the key is to figure out a way to make money flow back to human beings. The most intuitive way to do this is to have machines use money as we do. However, in a truly automated future, what do machines have to buy? Electricity? Maybe. But don’t forget that the power plants are working automatically as well (i.e., no human worker), so people still can’t earn cash.
Also, money is a solution to human’s greediness. To be more specific, money help preventing resources (e.g., foods) from running out too quick because it serves as an inhibitor of human’s desire (too many things to buy, but not enough money to buy them). But AI does not share such desire (theoretically, they only consume what they need based on logical calculation), therefore currency has little or no meaning to them.
Obviously, we must think of something else to let money flow to mankind, and that’s the topic for our next section.
Possible Replacements of working
Fortunately, working is definitely NOT the only way to distribute money. It’s just that we’re depending on the approach too much, so much so that most people can’t and won’t imagine a society without it.
Well, what can we do then? The following are some of our suggestions. Note that they are not the only answers (and certainly not the best ones). With a little imagination, you should be able to form your own solution.
Solution 1: Encourage healthy lifestyle:
In this new model, the companies run completely by AI can open programs that reward the participants with money according to how healthy their lifestyles are (indicated by objective data). For instance, company A may open a sport-rewarding program, in which people can earn money by spending reasonable amount of time on exercise daily. Similarly, company B may initiate a program that pays people when they successfully reduce their time of using electronic devices such as smartphones. Other companies can set up their own program(s) focusing on different topics, and people can choose which of them to join depending on their own preferences.
Solution 2: Encourage ecofriendly behaviors:
Like solution 1, companies can create programs rewarding people by how ecofriendly they are. For example, the participants who generate less garbage can harvest more cash than others.
Solution 3: Encourage creations:
Besides the rewarding programs aforementioned, companies can also hold exhibitions to encourage people to share their ideas, life stories, imaginations, thoughts and emotions with others through creations such as paintings, novels, essays, etc. It’s possible that all participants will receive a certain amount of payment, while those whose works are popular can get extra bonus.