0311 - Luddites. - 2023.09.18



Ah, worldbuilding.

The early twentieth century was full of magnificent appliances and developments that all sold themselves as "labour-saving"... and isn't that the point of all technology? We develop the plow so we don't have to dig with our hands. We tame the ox so we don't have to pull the plow with our shoulders. We invent the tractor so we don't have to corrall an ox. We create self-driving vehicles and autonomous labour so we don't have to farm at all. That's the cycle, that's how progress works.

There's a big one coming - self-driving cars. They don't have to be perfect - they just have to be cheaper and safer than the average human driver, and I assure you, that's doable. Not this year, certainly, maybe not this decade... but before the end of the century? It's virtually guaranteed, and when it happens, every taxi driver, every bus driver, every trucker... they're all looking for new work.

And that's the problem, isn't it? We want our labour saved, but we also want to be able to have a functioning economy so that people can eat food and live in houses. We can't all be robot technicians and tech CEOs - how will our civilization survive in a world in which most people no longer have marketable skills?

In the world of Forward, the advent of general-purpose automatons that could take over virtually any human job resulted in widespread unemployment, with all the poverty and strife that that implies. The various nations and economies of Earth found different solutions to it, of course, since even the most soulless oligarch would probably rather be a trillionaire in an advanced civilization than a quadrillionaire surrounded by a destitute mob with nothing better to do than throw rocks and sharpen guillotines.

I admit, I don't know exactly how those solutions work. I also don't know how to make a Zoa, that's not my job. I do know that the problem is looming ahead, and that we'll all have to work together to address it, just like with climate change and nuclear weapons and political polarization and nanites and a hundred other threats.

I believe in us. I mean, we got this far, right?


0311 – 2167/07/07/09:09 - sidewalk
Zoa: Aaaaanyway, the menu looks pretty limited… I guess these guys know what they do well, and they only do that. Respect.
CP: G-guy singular. I only see one human in the kiosk, the rest of those arms are all r-r-r-r…. autonomous.
LC: ….but the sign says “made only by human hands”. They seem to be making that a selling point, the no AI thing.
CP: Th-the arms are all b-being controlled by the one operator. I g-guess that’s how they g-get around it.
Zoa: Yeah, it’s just one normal human wielding eight spatulas at once, no AI in the picture here, yup yup.
LC: Why would you want human-prepared food, anyway? Doesn’t that just increase the chances of mistakes or contamination?
Zoa [data connection]: Lee, I say this with all the respect and compassion I can simulate – do you need a quick history lesson again?
CP: S-sort of ironic th-that they’re s-serving Martian food w-with an anti-AI attitude l-like that, huh?
LC [data connection]: History lesson? On what?
Zoa: Yeah, it’s like a Palestinian restaurant that brags about serving only non-cultured bacon.
Zoa [data connection]: The automation panic of the late twenty-first century that led to planted economies and whatnot. Luddites.
LC: No, I… I think I’m fine, thanks.
CP: Y-you… you’re not hungry, Lee?
LC: Oh! I… uh… not for food that’s prepared by Luddites, I’m not!
Zoa [data connection]: Nice save.
LC [data connection]: Please tell me I didn’t just say something politically controversial.
Zoa [data connection]: Okay, I won’t tell you.