Everything we can do, a robot might eventually be able to do better.
It's a frightening notion; the thought that one day, many different types of labor might become obsolete. The thought that one's job security might eventually be moot is never a pleasant one, and the ever-increasing presence of robots in the workplace represents for some a harbinger of dark days to come. Not everybody is so filled with doom and gloom, however.
MIT economics professor Paul Krugman actually feels that the robot revolution will bring humankind nothing but good things.
"Suppose that we learned to build true androids - robots that could do more or less anything humans can do. Surely, that would be transformative; it would effectively end diminishing returns to capital accumulation, and raising GDP per capita would simply be a matter of multiplying the Androids."
In other words, if we could build true Androids, humans the world over would very quickly become fabulously wealthy. Supply and demand would ultimately become a moot point outside of regional scarcity, as anyone who wanted more of a particular good or service could simply construct more robots in order to provide them. We would, Kruger says, live in a world where material scarcity would be a thing of the past.
Of course, what happens to all those men and women displaced by the robot revolution? After all, that's what everyone's really worried about. If a robot can do everything your job calls for, what exactly happens to your income?
It's irrelevant, argues Tim Worstall of Forbes.
"The only cost of production is the original capital investment of the androids, the hard limits of resource availability and the inherent shortage of positional goods. For everything else, as no human has to drip the sweat of their brow to produce it then no human beings needs to get paid to do so...that very absence of jobs in producing anything means we've legions of competing capitalists attempting to outdo each other at selling us the production of their armies of robots. Prices collapse and we're all near infinitely rich."
"Amusingly," he continues, "those of a Marxist cast of mind should be able to recognise the scene. For this is what Marx called true communism. When the productive capacity of industry has reached the point where all needs and desires could be met then we will indeed be at that communist nirvana."
In other words, if robots take all our jobs, it won't really matter all that much. We'll ultimately have everything we need, anyway. With robots providing us with all our basic necessities (and most of our luxuries, too) we'll all be able to focus more on what we really love to do.
That doesn't sound like such a bad future to me.