Future Tech

What Happens When Robots Can Do All the Jobs?

Joel Lee 24-02-2015

One day, not too far from now, we’re going to experience the greatest unemployment crisis in human history.  Whether that will be good or bad depends entirely on how we prepare for it.


What happens when technology advances so far ahead that machine intelligence What Artificial Intelligence Isn't Are intelligent, sentient robots going to take over the world? Not today -- and maybe not ever. Read More   can perform all human labor?  It may sound nice at first – perhaps even utopian – but the implications are more frightening than you might think.

This topic popped up when we looked at jobs that robots should take over, including many occupations that involve sales, data research, and transportation. In response to that post, one of our readers, Dmitry, posed an interesting question:

A much more pressing question is: what will “replaced” humans do? [Aside from the] ever-dwindling “elite” groups of creators, servitors and owners, there’ll be no “logical need” for the rest of the jobless – thus “non-earning” – population to exist in the capitalist paradigm.

Great question! While nobody can say for sure, plenty of minds brighter than my own have explored what such a scenario might entail. Let’s see what’s in store for us.

The Rise of Human-Level Intelligence

We are on the cusp of a tech-based societal transformation that will be at least as big as that of the Industrial Revolution. This isn’t just machine-driven automation for tedious manual labor. We’re talking about man-made creations that can “think” at a human level – or even beyond.

To be fair, that second-wave revolution won’t actually be here for quite some time. Optimistic projections put that kind of breakthrough in the 2040s or 2050s while more conservative models predict the 2080s or 2090s. So, we have anywhere from a few decades to close to a century.


But when you look at the advancements made in the past few years, it’s hard not to get excited over the possibilities. A few decades might seem far away, but that time is going to zip on by and the breakthrough will arrive before you know it.

For example, driverless cars are on the horizon Here's How We'll Get to a World Filled With Driverless Cars Driving is a tedious, dangerous, and demanding task. Could it one day be automated by Google's driverless car technology? Read More . It’s not as sexy an idea as, say, hoverboards or flying cars, but it’ll still have an enormous impact on the way we live our lives and conduct commerce. Driverless cars aren’t generally intelligent in the same way that people are, but driving is a big, complicated, subtle cognitive task which is quickly moving into the reach of robots, and that’s a sign of things to come.

It’s not even necessarily clear that traditionally intellectual jobs are safe.  Even in the near future, machines like IBM’s Watson system that famously won on Jeopardy may take over data-heavy jobs like doctor and lawyer, thanks to their ability to consume and integrate far more information than humans.  In fact, traditionally intellectual jobs may be among the first to go.  Ironically, some of the tasks we think of requiring enormous intelligence (like those that depend on an enormous amount of domain knowledge) are proving much easier for machines than relatively basic tasks like cleaning a house or making a burger.

We also shouldn’t rule out robotic creativity because it now seems that robots can be creative.  Cutting edge robots today can compose music, write news stories, and paint artwork.  Here’s a song written by a piece of software called “Emily Howell.”


Again, we’re not at a point where robots can compete head-on with human imagination, but these are steps in that direction.

What about on the battlefield? Microsoft has already developed a line of robotic security guards Microsoft, Artificial Intelligence, and The Robot Apocalypse Microsoft is giving a line of autonomous robots a serious look. Is this the beginning of the end for humans, or just another step forward in the push for safe artificial intelligence? Read More that are used to maintain security on one of its campuses. It wouldn’t require much imagination to take it one step further: autonomous war machines that are smarter and deadlier than humans.  DARPA contractor Boston Dynamics has developed powerful humanoid robots with potential military applications, such as their latest quadruped, SPOT:

We’re making our robots smarter and better, but maybe we should be wary Here's Why Scientists Think You Should be Worried about Artificial Intelligence Do you think artificial intelligence is dangerous? Does AI may pose a serious risk to the human race. These are some reasons why you may want to be concerned. Read More about where that might take us.

Robot Intelligence, Human Employment

Imagine it’s a century from now and our continuous progress in artificial intelligence has resulted in robots with human-level intellectual capabilities.  In this hypothetical, robots can equal humans in all intellectual, mathematical, engineering, and creative pursuits.


What do you think the work force looks like in this scenario?

When the Industrial Revolution hit in the mid-1700s, people freaked out – the term ‘luddite’ comes from the anti-automation movement of this period. A single machine could match the production output of a hundred humans, essentially putting those people out of their jobs. Thus, machines lead to unemployment, right?

Not exactly.

Think of every possible job in the world as an individual bucket and think of the people employed with that job as a drop in that bucket. For example, a farmer bucket. Here comes a set of machines that can do everything that a farmer does more cheaply, thus eliminating the need for the “farmer” occupation. Essentially, that bucket disappears.


But these ex-farmers are now freed up to work in whatever other buckets are available, thus boosting the production levels of those buckets — the economy as a whole is able to grow as a result of the added value created by all the cheap robot farmers.  The result? An overall improvement in global production.

For now, machines are only good enough to replace jobs that require unskilled rote work 6 Human Jobs That Computers Will Never Replace Read More , which means that they don’t cause unemployment but rather reemployment into other fields that can’t be automated.  This point is worth emphasizing: the current employment crisis was not caused by automation.


But if we’re talking about a future time period when robots are on equal footing with humans and aren’t limited to rote automation, the situation is different.

Robots are cheaper and more efficient than humans. Humans need nine months to gestate, eighteen years to mature, and several additional years to train in a particular field, whether that means healthcare, engineering, the arts, or whatever else. In contrast, robots can be mass produced and once one has been programmed or trained, that data can be instantly and infinitely duplicated.

In other words, when there’s a choice between a robot and human with equal potential, the robot is always the more efficient choice. And when robots are skilled enough to take over every single job bucket on the market, there won’t be any buckets left for humans. That’s when reemployment becomes unemployment.

The Implications of “No-Humans-Required”

At this point in our hypothetical scene, two things are true: 1) robots are sufficient to produce everything necessary for humanity’s continued existence and 2) the vast majority of humans can’t find work because all work is done by robots. What would this kind of society look like?

The first option is that nothing changes, and we find ourselves in a world in which a small fraction of people who were independently wealthy before the mass automation can live comfortably, reaping the benefits of the rapidly growing robot economy.  The poor would either starve or be taken care of by charity from a small cabal of wealthy benefactors.  This scenario can range from ‘pretty okay’ to ‘absolutely nightmarish,’ depending on the details.  Incidentally, this is also the default option.

But let’s say we were to try to change the system to avoid this scenario.  What might that look like?

The first thing to go would probably be market economies.

Markets are based on needs and wants. Money represents the exchange of one need or want for another. When all goods and services can be produced at perfect capacity by non-human labor, the utopian scenario would be perfect socialism: humans can reap the benefits of a vast robot economy without having to pay for them, and everyone’s needs and wants are fulfilled without the need for money.


This would free up humans to pursue whatever they want without any material limitations. Since nobody would be producing or buying or selling anything, all sense of ownership would quickly disappear – and if something were to break or be lost, that thing could be replaced almost immediately.

It wouldn’t spell the end of all human interactions, though. Money might cease to exist, but another kind of economy might take its place: an economy based on intangible goods such as status, reputation, skills, or creativity.


Yet no matter what happens, the global robot force would still succumb to entropy. Broken robots would still need to be repaired, lost robots would still need to be replaced, and materials and energy would still need to be gathered. Who’s going to be responsible for this?

One possibility: humans. These might be the only real jobs remaining in the world. While 99.9% of society lives free from work, a small segment would have to slave away.

In the worst case, a small caste of laborers would become slaves for life. In a not-as-bad case, society could enforce some kind of mandatory rotation or incentive system where skilled people are somehow encouraged or forced to take shifts working as robot maintainers.


All of this assumes that humans remain superior to robots, but that may actually be a foolish assumption to make.

If robots were to achieve a level of intelligence that matched the human mind, it’d be reasonable to assume that they’d also be intelligent enough to take care of themselves. Such an intelligence would imply the ability to self-replicate, self-repair, and even gather their own energy resources. Sounds useful, right?

But there’s something called an “intelligence explosion Here's Why Scientists Think You Should be Worried about Artificial Intelligence Do you think artificial intelligence is dangerous? Does AI may pose a serious risk to the human race. These are some reasons why you may want to be concerned. Read More ,” which describes an intelligence threshold that, if surpassed, would allow robots to accelerate their own intelligence beyond the intelligence of humans, resulting in a kind of robotic super-intelligence appearing suddenly and with little warning.


Are you smarter than an ant? Of course! But it’s a silly question. Human intelligence and ant intelligence are on such different levels that the question is meaningless. If robots became super-intelligent, the gap between them and us may be as large as – or even larger than – the gap between us and ants.

And at that point, we’d lose any illusion of control over our creations.

That’s not to say that robots would necessarily be hostile towards us, but they would be controlled by the goals we gave them.  If those goals aren’t compatible with ours, things could get ugly very quickly.  For example: if the robots need more fuel to do their jobs and they decide that the most efficient way to obtain more fuel is to break down humans and other organic matter into our raw hydrocarbons… well, that wouldn’t be a happy ending for us.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to summarize this kind of speculative discussion because there are so many possibilities that are just too far in the future, but here’s the gist of it: while machines aren’t the cause of modern economic woes, they will have a profound effect within the next century, and we need to be prepared for it.

What will we do when the line between artificial intelligence and human intelligence disappears? The optimist in me wants to hope for a utopia, but the realist in me can easily imagine the end of humanity as we know it.

What do you think? Will robotic super-intelligence lead us towards salvation or poverty? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: you are fired Via Shutterstock, Robot hand Via Shutterstock, Robot Job Comic Via Shutterstock, Open Relaxation Via Shutterstock, Gear Arm Via Shutterstock, Intelligence Explosion Via Shutterstock, Robot Human Mind Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Artificial Intelligence, Computer Automation, Robotics.

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  1. Reg Inald
    October 14, 2017 at 3:12 am

    The way to keep control is to install a program that protects humans from harm. Refer Asimov. This "program must be designed in a way that it cannot be overwritten added to or deleted once installed. To play or override it would create the "death" of the robot

  2. TrueBlue
    July 24, 2017 at 11:55 am

    AI will surpass human intelligence within 2 generations that is absolutely guaranteed. Most if not all production including food production will end up being done by robots. The robots with AI will never turn on humans that is just pure fantasy and ignores the limits that can be built in from the start including a remote off switch.
    The future would have to be some sort of Utopian communism (assuming no resource limitations global population control is mandatory) but getting there is going to be a very painful process. First the privileged in our world (read rich people, powerful people, rich nations like the USA and western Europe) would fight any move towards equality and will wage wars to prevent their privilege being removed.
    I envisage western privilege and a few others initially passing laws to restrict AI but poor states and non western members like Russia and maybe China implementing in any case. Wars are likely to ensue to try and preserve the existing privilege .
    In time the power and promise of AI will overcome the short sighted status quo. Nation states will cease to exist and materialism as we know it will evaporate. The only logical end result will be a global minimum allowance so produce can be shared fairly.

  3. Fazal Haq
    July 6, 2017 at 7:20 am

    i jave an idea about the power generation..its so cheap and somehow free..i only want to share my this idea with you so that i may give a new innovative idea to the world....i am from pakistan...i am a teacher of arts but i have my idea....

  4. Chris
    February 1, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    Knowing the nature of selfishness and evil that exists in the world, all the surplus to requirement people will probably end up in concentration camps. Something like this is already happening in America. In America many homeless people are now being forced into FEMA camps outside of town. This is exactly the same purpose that the concentration camps in Hitler's Germany were first used for.

  5. Automat
    January 17, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    What a waste of words.

    Most of stuff here is so useless, saying in future we will have a billion robot technician LOL,

    Only logical answer would be one part of humans would control food production, mayor would be space soliders (stormtroopers) and tiny part would run the entertainment.

  6. Powerup
    January 11, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    It is much easier to imagine the bad than it is the good, that is why dystopian fiction dominates literature about the future. I think that the reasons for this is that the future is connected to death and decay and also our species evolved to imagine bad future outcomes to prepare ourselves to help us to survive them.

  7. Mo
    December 7, 2016 at 7:38 am


    • Sudeep
      October 2, 2017 at 7:44 am

      Absolutely correct, the company which will remove the employees and performs service with robots will definitely lose its human support and it will destroy itself. Like the same happened with Microsoft during 90's. When people dislike the Microsoft because of its monopoly.

  8. Zoltar
    October 24, 2016 at 6:57 am

    AI will be the end of humanity. I don't think there will ever be a need for AI to be produced , but as some one pointed out, it will probably happen for shits and giggles. All creatures have a built-in self preservation drive, and so will an AI creation; it will quickly determine that we humans are a threat to it's safety. But let us pretend that AI does not occur for say a hundred years , but instead all menial tasks and jobs are done by robots utilizing extremely fast processors and extensive IF-THEN-ELSE programming tables for all known scenarios in a job situation (say in the next 30 years). The world will still be in a scary place because now billions of people will be out of work, and there will be no money to enjoy the cheaper products, and no time to enjoy hobbies when you are trying to figure out how to feed yourself and your family because you don't have a job.

  9. Julian
    September 2, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    In these conversations on the question of robots or AI taking over, the word "humans" is used to describe a single entity. The inevitability of the human race coming to an inglorious end is increased if we as a species fail to recognize and discuss how to prevent a handful or even one individual who thinks the human race is a blight and should be eliminated from "making" it happen.

    It takes a community to build great things, but only one crazy person to destroy it. There are crazy human beings who like the idea of A.I. superseding us. Out of a 7 plus billion population, it is a mathematical certainty.

    Sure most of us will try to program the right things into these creations for the sake of self-preservation. But not "all" of us! What is the greatest threat of Robots and A.I.? One of us, turning them loose... just for shits and giggles.

  10. Ijorgy
    July 4, 2016 at 5:39 am

    I hope machines will do all the work. That is the only way to defeat the cheating, undervalued labor, and exploitation. There will be no poor because machines will generate everything for everybody to provide baseline survival, not only here but out there in the space. Machines have very fair law for the pay, energy enough to do the job or they stop. Humans have much more to do using and enhancing their brains instead of their hands.
    Supply and Demand Law is one of the most overhyped nonsense. Demand is generated by "over"-advertising the supply most of the times. It is the closed mental system. There is no sense in using chewing gums, but a huge demand for them exists because people are "smart" to obey the laws they create themselves. Machines will foster natural arrival socialism and beyond. People will grow out of the demand for trash and useless gaudy stuff and will step into the space that is not "cost-efficient" decision and there is no demand for it, but we know it is inevitable. Because we are actually smart in this case.

  11. asp_jason
    May 20, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Talking about the complexity of current code and processing power isn't even relevant at this point, think vacuum tubes and floppy disk, when this does happen don't you think it'll be with technology that doesn't exist or even imagined today. You all are also assuming that an AI will take on a humanoid form or an extensive physical form, perhaps it would prefer to stay in a "digital" world expanding there and as long as it, or humans can keep it maintained why would it want to take on a resource heavy task like creating robots.

    Humanity often reaches tipping points where when pushed too far it will push back, at the point where enough people decide technology has taken over too much of our lives, they may push back or faction off.

    Also in the situation of intelligent robots capable of self sustaining, why do you assume they'll expand and take over, sure they may decide not to work for us but rather faction off into their own society. When I see protesters for robot equality I'll be concerned.

    I have to wonder about human evolution, or "de-evolution" if you prefer, at the point where, intelligence, strength, resistance to disease, etc have no bearing on our ability to procreate because technology can sustain the human race perhaps we'll evolve into mindless cattle because our robots will take care of us.

  12. No one
    March 12, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    Why is AI utopianism "the one that'll definitely work this time"? Because humans aren't the ones to make it?

    Let's say now is then, this future: Billions of humans are redundant in terms of work, are insects relative to the military strength of an AI army (especially if that AI is designed to kill and control humans), and use up countless resources better served to make more robotics. I'm sure whoever retains power over AI or AI-design/repair education will give up that power that's literally incomparable to any of humanity's rulers' over our entire history. /s

    I'm sorry, but am I wrong in stating that since "capitalism won the Cold War", people don't give a s**t about what happens to each other so long as they can work and maintain a private life 'free' from other people's lives? We're just going to cozy up to technologically forced socialism now? We'll finally care about that schizophrenic hobo, huh? Racism will finally stop? Oh, we'll even roboticize our own brains, become AI ourselves, I see.

    I don't like being the pessimist, but please consider how, at present, it's realistic to say AI will take all our jobs (because that's good and it's good to develop that), and it's unrealistic to say humans as a species should spend their time caring about each other (because that's forced and it's pointless to develop that).

    Why hasn't humanity trusted itself to achieve utopia by any other means?

  13. Daniel Ahlert
    December 11, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Robots don't buy cars youtube

  14. Scott
    December 11, 2015 at 5:28 am

    Orga and mecha. These two entities I have spent alot of time researching. I find mecha fascinating because the potential is great. I find orga equally fascinating in that we tend to always overcome obstacles that are either thrown at us such as weather, geological phenomenon etc. orga is reaching a point in which they want easy and comfort. The ability to live entirely in a vision of what they wish for always. As the population of orga grows older and older they will exclusively rely on mecha to provide the basics. I see a Borg consciousness as a nightmare version of a mash between orga and mecha. I understand some of its allure but for a great many in this world orga individual wants and desires will trump any collective vision. I have seen the Matrix version of mecha using orga for its fuel resources. Another Orwellian view of the complete clash between orga and mecha. It will be hard to see where we will go. As mecha is introduced to everywhere on the globe you will see a great change in how we as a species will view mecha. An exciting time for sure.

  15. Anonymous
    November 8, 2015 at 7:16 am

    No, market economies would not disappear. Production still relies entirely on supply and demand, and, as an economic law, always will. Even if 100% automation occurs, products must be made based on demand. If there is no demand, then you will only end up with waste. This is a fundamental rule of market economies, and socialism is drastically opposed - to arbitrarily give out any processed object while not considering time spent and resources spent, - ie, price controls - one will find that a socialist robot utopia will fail just as readily as a socialist human utopia. I'm sorry, but these are principles that are based in reality. Production, ideally, will not exceed demand, though it will do its best to always meet it to drive the price down in order to compete.

    And, speaking of which, prices will fall - dramatically. You are right in that notion, and in that human labor is infinitely more expensive than that of a robot. The time needed to produce a human worker + the resources required in human upkeep greatly outnumber the small investments needed in robot workers. Humans simply cannot compete. What is likely to happen is prices will fall, and everyone will benefit - because of markets and capitalism.

    As (relatively) free markets and capitalism has done throughout human history, standard of living will increase hugely, exponentially. Energy will be cheaper, essential and non-essential products will be cheaper, and humans will gradually have more and more time to spend on their self rather than to work.

    • Presh
      April 11, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      And how do the poor earm without work?.. I think it's gonna be the same story of genocide which is thinking of the best the worst comes out. And if you're lucky you can stop it if not you're gone. So i think it's smart if we stupid humans don't go too far.. We should make them intelligent to the right level not to ourselves.

      • Sens-O-Tron
        January 15, 2017 at 3:20 pm

        The most likely outcome is the same one that has been happening for centuries. I believe what Kevin Harlan Keel was saying is that the exponentially more efficient and cheaper labor of robots will result in equally cheaper goods and services. That has been the record of automation. There was a time when only the wealthy could afford a car. Today, most poor Americans have one. Kevin predicts robot labor will continue that trend and that makes sense. Will the poor of the future routinely buy the future equivalent of private jets?

      • Sens-O-Tron
        January 15, 2017 at 3:21 pm

        I believe what Kevin Harlan Keel was saying is that the exponentially more efficient and cheaper labor of robots will result in equally cheaper goods and services. That has been the record of automation. There was a time when only the wealthy could afford a car. Today, most poor Americans have one. Kevin predicts robot labor will continue that trend. Will the poor of the future routinely buy the future equivalent of private jets?

  16. Anonymous
    September 27, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    We will try to compete with AI making ourselves the "Borg"! Resistance is futile!

  17. salim
    May 18, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    u can shut up it setup OK

  18. Lewis John
    May 14, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    There will be a time, when only a few (super-) humans will exist on Earth and everything will be under their realm. Artificial Intelligence is only a step away and once we achieve creating A.I., Moore's Law will still be in effect. Machine will be able to repair machine without the aid of humans and themselves will be able to evolve further and further. The aim of the human race is Eternity, nothing else. Whatever we do, is to serve this very purpose: to find the key to eternal life, that will enable us to truly rule the Universe and Beyond...
    The question is, whether we will allow this to happen..(?)

    • Joe
      October 27, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Nice fiction. Plot twist - machines can repair themselves. They multiply at an amazing rate and consume the earth making it uninhabitable by humans. Eternal life - yes - for machines. Our children will bear much fruit.

  19. In search of strength
    May 1, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I believe that the ability of human mind is infinite. And there will come a time when humans will create Robots more intellegent , or may say super intellegent. And as you said they would be able to take care of themselves and in order to achieve their goals , may go against humans.
    Before a decade or so , noone imagined that one person would be able to talk to another over hundreds of miles away. This is how technology is increasing. There are so many things of this universe yet to be discovered. Who knows the law of gravity proves to be unvalid tomorrow !
    At this rate of technology improvement , i believe humans will create super intellegent robots.
    But my question is, if they go against humans who will protect them !?
    Humans strength is in fractions compared to a robots. How will we fight back ? Is that how it will end ? Or someone really strong alien like Thor or Superman would come to protect us ? ???

  20. Anonymous
    April 7, 2015 at 1:41 am

    Solar power. Kill switch. Can we make this happen faster?

  21. Daniel
    March 29, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Joel, nice article, i enjoyed reading it. The first 2 thoughts I had in mind after I reading the article is: (1) in a distant theoretical utopia, would we even still need humans to perform maintenance on the robots or would there be robots maintaining other robots? think of Buzz droids only for maintenance? if our minds run through a sequence of codes to accomplish the things we do everyday, who says this same code cant be a applied to a robot? (2) i believe this was already touched on but once we reached the theoretical Utopia where all forces of nature have been streamlined to provide goods&services for human consumption, would there really be a purpose to human life? would it be to eat,sleep, and watch movies all day? this is assuming a final utopia where even all research&development of astronomy or the sciences or arts have all be discovered to it's plateau threshold.

  22. Mike Cranny
    March 29, 2015 at 9:05 am

    Robots need to be given core ethical values and targets for sustainable co-existance. With this core programming in place, highly intelligent robots can collaborate with humans (and trans-humans) to deliver a world with no poverty, no war and a healthy planet where everyone can pursue their interests and passions. We will become a world that has its act together, free to represent Earth knowledge and knowhow to the far reaches of our solar system and galaxy.

  23. Anonymous
    March 19, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    what if the government docent want robots anymore and everyone likes robots what will happen?

  24. Anonymous
    March 19, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    so is having a robot good or bad?

  25. Anonymous
    March 19, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Is artificial intelligence bad?

  26. Anonymous
    March 19, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    what if you don't buy a robot?
    Will everyone have a robot?
    How is robots doing crimes worse than people doing crimes?
    How will the society ( adults, kids) be like?
    How much more pollution will occur in the future due to robots more or less?
    How are people taking advantage, use of genetic jeans to make robots, in a bad way?
    Are having robots healthy, describe especially for children?
    How can robots mal-function what re the effects to you?

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:44 pm

      Those are some nice questions, food for thought. Unfortunately I don't think anyone has any clear answers yet. I guess we'll just have to wait and see?

    • Ion
      September 20, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      Its hard to answer those questions without making assumptions. Buying/selling robots may be irrelevant as they could be free to use as needed if/when available.

      Crimes in what context? People using robots to commit crimes? AI using Robots in ways that are illegal but it does so to achieve its set goals?

      As far as pollution. Things should be way more efficient so pollution should be minimized by a huge margin compared to the level of activity. Just think of all the stop and go traffic that will be gone vs using that remaining saved time to do more... How much is saved when your doing more things at the same time. Pollution is also relative to materials and energy sources used. It all should be better but it depends on whats available at the time.

      Are robots healthy for kids? As in social skills? Again depends on the world at that time. In theory it could be perfect with robots that are indistinguishable from people with all resources available to give the best possible situation for learning and development. Could be better than any human could achieve... And on the other end, in a worse case, caged up and kept alive for the purpose of survival of the human race as an example of a human baby.

      Everything is relative. So for now its mostly wait and see and maybe a little planning.

  27. Jason
    March 17, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Most likely, the very wealthy (or their lucky benefactors) will find ways to 'integrate' robotic and bio genetic enhancements into themselves so as to stay competitive with purely artificial intelligent life forms, essentially being like Marvel super-hero level people, while the less economically fortunate will probably be at their mercy.

    • Joel
      March 20, 2015 at 11:43 pm

      Interesting thought! Maybe the future of humanity is to continue on as some kind of cyborg hybrid between real humans and artificial bots. Sounds like ripe material for a science fiction novel, haha.

  28. Jharavingel
    March 7, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    what if, robots are really meant to be a partner and not a conqueror?
    or in short a helper for human beings to be more productive maybe?

    • Brad Merrill
      March 12, 2015 at 1:50 am

      I think that's generally the intention — machines are designed to make our lives easier and more productive. But as they become more and more capable, they begin to displace human workers who once performed the same tasks, because in many cases it's more efficient and economical to use a machine than to pay an employee.

    • Joel
      March 12, 2015 at 4:05 am

      Like Brad said, I think that would be the ideal scenario... but walking that line is going to be really tough. Getting robots to a point where they're "perfect but not TOO perfect" is probably impossible, seeing as how humanity apparently has such a drive to push limits.

      How can you tell if the next snowflake you add to a snowball isn't the one that gets it rolling down the hill? Once that happens, you can't go back!

  29. jms
    February 28, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    I think this is what happened in Star Trek the next generation. We will have time to explore the universe and write poetry for some reason.

    • Joel
      March 3, 2015 at 2:33 am

      That's certainly the optimistic prediction that some people have. I'd love for it to turn out that way, but I tend to live by the motto: "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst." :)

  30. Anonymous
    February 25, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    I think humans just too much dramatise about robots. Unemployment? It means more time for fun and hobbies. Crimes? Robocop will do his job :)

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      Maybe humanity would be in a better place if we all took such a laid back approach to the future. Or maybe not. Who knows? :P

    • Anonymous
      April 26, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      sounds nice until you consider that you won't have any money to participate in any hobbies or fun activities because you will be unemployed and probably homeless.

  31. Tobey
    February 25, 2015 at 10:54 am

    There will NEVER be "One day, not too far from now" when employment crisis happens. Machines have been taking over for years and decades and the only outcome so far for regular people has been less jobs, more competition and more "voluntary enslavement" on scrap jobs for low pay. This is what has been happening in a greedy society unable to thrive from its own advancement and will continue happening until the next big "revolution" (yet another one). Machines have been steadily, silently and increasingly making life much easier up top and much sh*ttier down below where most regular working forces are: 1% vs 99%

  32. Bryan Clark
    February 25, 2015 at 3:25 am

    This is fascinating to think about and the truth is that we really won't know until we're closer to that stage.

    Also, there are still greed-based implications in the socialist paradise you describe, such as wanting bigger homes, new TVs, boats, etc. that really can't fall into a pure socialist system. Until you can erase greed, there's always going to be the desire for bigger and better. If you're not earning money or working a job, then how are you going to acquire these things that we've been programmed to want?

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:43 pm

      I agree. Greed (and insecurity) are huge problems for humanity and I don't think a robotic future will do anything except exacerbate those problems. The cynic in me is poking out now, but if we stay on the same course we've been on for the past few centuries, we're screwed.

  33. KT
    February 25, 2015 at 2:28 am

    It used to be: If your job is dirty, physically demanding, or repetitive, then it will be replaced by robots. But now, that logic is being applied to service based trades as well. I'm glad I'm an industrial maintenance mechanic, because they do need maintenance, set up, and programming. The 12 robotic welders we have easily replaces over 50 welders at peak operation. Even if a robot costs $50,000 and around $5,000/year to maintain, it is still more cost effective than paying a human a wage and benefits over the life of the robot. In the end, it will cause massive unemployment.

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      Robots are certainly cheaper than humans once research and development is taken care of. I can't think of a single case where robotic maintenance would cost the same or more than a human being's annual income. I'd love to be proven wrong, though. That'd be an interesting case study.

  34. A Terrones
    February 24, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    I liked very much your article , but you didn't mention the option of the singularity, when we become super advanced robots, with our bodies and minds empowered in a robot. I think we don't need to fight, we must become one.

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      To be honest, that thought never even crossed my mind... but it's a compelling one. Humans and robots becoming one unified race. Sounds like a fun SciFi ride, but I wonder how that would actually work in real life? What does it mean for humans to become robots? Or for humans to share a mind with robots? As a layman, I have no idea how to even tackle that scenario!

      • Joe
        December 5, 2016 at 11:17 pm

        Our bodies, are nothing but a vehicle. Our bodies, are not "us". Our consciousness, is what makes "us". If we could somehow integrate our brains into a mechanical vehicle, or even into a fully operational database (brain), attached to a mechanical vehicle, we could essentially ditch the organic form. No longer consuming food, but still requiring energy. With advancements in energy, there could be something out there, that is continually renewable, or everlasting. Voila "eternal life". Who knows? There are already ways to integrate the brain, for controlling robotic extremities. So, it's not that big of a stretch.

  35. Scott Howard
    February 24, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    I only have two words for you concerning this scenario: Battlestar Galactica

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      Ha! A great show that really makes you think at times.

  36. Suleiman
    February 24, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Ok, Can you say " Hello World" ? how long did it take you to say it, did u think too much to say it? I think the answer is no. Now, lets ask the tin boy robot to say " Hello World" It will go through this process:

    int main()
    std::cout << "Hello World!";
    and then it will say Hello World.

    Therefore, humans are way smarter than robots, humans made robots, humans control robots and absolutely not the other way around.

    There are rules devised by the science fiction author Isaac Asimov and they are applied in the robotic world today.
    The Three Laws :
    1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

    To achieve an almost perfect robot, we have to have a great programming language and extremely fast CPUs ( both do not exist today, thus no super robot). Programming a chip using C++ and Pascal differ a lot in robot world. Even if we get smart program and blazing fast computers , we will program the brain of the robot while strictly following the three laws of robotics.

    Not so long ago at IEEE room in our university we used to build autonomous robot for Sumo Robotics competition. We the Electrical engineering students were good at wiring and making sure the current is flowing smoothly. The Mechanical guys build the shape of the robot and installed the wheels . The Computer engineering guys programmed the chip. From my experience, the most important people were the programmers because if they did their job right, our chance to win was great.

    Some of us grew up reading Sci Fi books ( my authors are Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov) and watched all the Sci Fi movies and eventually ending up making a career out of it lol . What we read or watched were all imaginary worlds where they have ignited passion in us to translate those dream worlds into reality and sometimes those dreams do come true. Sir Arthur C Clarke predicted on Wireless World magazine in 1945 about Geostationary Satellite Communications. Today not only we have it but we took it for granted:

    What I want to say is chillax ma people, nothing serious will happen. Ain't no robots da tinboyz will make us their slaves :) We will be still the lords of the planet Earth as long as we have that gray matter. The dumbest human being is way smarter than any suffocated robot. You don't believe me? take the plug or battery off the robot and see what happens :)

    Robots might come to do jobs where people are doing them today but there will be always humans to control the work of robots. If robot makes a mistake the result could be catastrophic and the blame is on those humans who failed to program and maintain the robot. You see, humans will always be on the job place. Don't ever think that the entire company will be run by robots, that will not happen even if that was possible. We are humans , we don't trust our kinds that much let alone to trust blindly da Rickety Rocket cousins tin boyz and tin gals...bleep! bleep! bleep! :)

    Thanks for reading.

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:34 pm

      Hey Suleiman. I understand what you're saying as I used to think a lot of the same thoughts. On the one hand, it's easy to think that humans "won't ever allow" robots to leave our command. Then again, I think of how it only takes *one* mistake or unexpected action for a situation to spin out of control. (Think Jurassic Park and chaos theory.)

      Not long ago, Google showed that it was on the verge of a self-programming robot breakthrough. That idea of a self-programming *anything* seems very vulnerable to unexpected behavior that could spiral out of control.

      What do you think?

    • Ion
      September 20, 2016 at 9:01 pm

      Like joel said. Look up machine learning/Deep learning for more information on the new programming stuff. Humans are already being surpassed on sight and sound through the use of self learning tricks. Its only a matter of time before we figure out a way to make them do all the work.

  37. dragonmouth
    February 24, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    What happens when the only bucket left is the one with unemployable humans?

    "This would free up humans to pursue whatever they want without any material limitations."
    But if robots can do everything better, faster and cheaper, are humans going to be allowed to do anything? Which brings up the question of the psychological impact on humans of being totally useless and having no purpose in life.

    What happens when the robots come to the conclusion that humans no longer serve any justifiable function and therefore are superfluous?

    The one basic flaw of all the utopian prognostications of robots performing all the jobs leaving humans "to pursue whatever they want" is the unwarranted assumption that humans will retain control over the robots as infinitum.

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:28 pm

      Great questions. I tried to cover some of it in the latter half of the section titled "The Implications of 'No-Humans-Required'" but these questions have so many possible answers that it's hard to pick which ones might be the most plausible.

      The topic of human psychology in a world of superintelligent robots is a fascinating one. We've been #1 on the Earth for so long and we're such a self-centered and arrogant species in the grand scheme of things. How would that mindset change when our own creations supersede us?

      That same arrogance that leads to superintelligent robots (all the while thinking that we'll maintain control over our own creations) is what will lead us to our doom.

  38. bee
    February 24, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Scarcity is a universal condition ... Robots would not change that fact ... It may change what is scarce ...

    Socialism does not work given the inability to determine prices ... In a robot filled world prices will be needed

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      "Scarcity is a universal condition … Robots would not change that fact … It may change what is scarce …"

      A keen observation. So the question is, will humanity expire before we run out of the resources necessary to sustain ourselves? The question feels fatalistic, as if we should just do whatever we want because the end of humanity is inevitable anyway.

      That's a sad and scary idea if I think about it too much.

  39. Cameron Stevens
    February 24, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    This has been on my mind for years... no good will come of this with greed as a core value of humanity.

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Greed is the big killer, isn't it? In theory, various forms of society *should* work. Both capitalism and communism would be great in a perfect world, but humanity's flaws make them imperfect systems. As we push forward into a post-market-economy society, I wonder how quickly that greed will destroy whatever good things we have left remaining.

  40. Sam
    February 24, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Spelling - "...the realist in me can easily imagion the end of humanity..."

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      Thanks Sam. Fixed!

  41. Deere
    February 24, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    - Robot's can't do ALL jobs.
    - Robots are costly. Very costly. Human life isn't - when robots break, they must be fixed or replaced.
    - Even today people live just like they did in ancient times and it's not gonna change just because there will be an abundance of smart automatons in big cities.

    • Joel
      February 25, 2015 at 9:17 pm

      Hi Deere, thanks for chiming in. I think a more accurate stance would be "Robots can't do ALL jobs *right now*" and "Robots are costly *right now*", which is why this kind of robotic superintelligence has yet to manifest.

      Remember how expensive and limited the first computer was? Yet here we are today with $50 mobile phones that are faster than supercomputers of the 1970s. I don't think it's unrealistic to assume the same could happen with robots within the next century.