I recently had a great time at the 68th British National Science Fiction Annual Convention: meeting old friends; making new ones; attending some fascinating panels…
The panels prompted my restless mind to explore tangential threads, as they should. Example…
During the Artifical Intelligence (AI) panel, someone mentioned that when driverless trucks take over, some 3.5 million USA truckers will lose their jobs. Another 5 million support staff, such as truck stop workers, will be redundant, too. Most of them won’t have high-value transferable skills in such a new environment, so that’s nearly 8.5 million people on the dole within the few years it takes for trucking companies to convert to driverless.
8.5 million ex-workers. And that’s from the introduction of just ONE AI “device”.
- Who’s going to pay the ex-truckers’ welfare benefits, health care, pensions…?
- Will resurgent Unions fire up a protest movement and blackmail the trucking industry?
- Will there be riots?
- Will governments ban such AIs to protect human jobs?
- Will candidates for elected office seek to ban such AIs to protect human jobs, especially in election years? (AIs don’t vote. Yet. But that’s another topic.)
Although these were remarkable data and I sympathize with the threatened workers, their families and whoever will be taxed more heavily to fund the bloating welfare system, thoughts of two financial aspects popped into my mind unbidden:-
- At the end of their working lives, AIs can be sold off for scrap or salvage: no one pays a company when it sheds human workers.
- AIs don’t get pensions or geriatric health care, so there are no ongoing payments by the state when their “working lives” end.
There MUST be a story there.
- How would those financials work out in the longer term?
- How will the displaced people spend their time?
Among the solutions offered by the panel was the suggestion that the redundant humans could turn their hands to the production of high-ticket “artisanal” objects. Hmm… 8.5 million instant craftspersons whose latent skills suddenly emerge overnight without years of training and practice? (Just like Rey using the Force and lightsabers, and piloting starships without any training…)
Hmm… The Force must be strong in the trucking industry.
Or… Maybe they could get domestic AIs to turn their produce into higher-quality and hence higher-ticket items? Who would pay for the domestic AIs? And that defeats the point of having human-crafted objects, doesn’t it? Or does it, if humans created the AI’s? But it would not be the ex-truckers who programmed the craft-skilled AI’s…
As the saying goes, “It’s complicated.”