Bob: It happened again! This is the worst thing ever! We have to put a stop to this! Seamus: What on earth happened, Bob? Bob: A robot stole my job! Again! Seamus: Oh no, that’s too bad! Wait a second. I thought you hated your job. Bob: I never said that! *flashback of Bob saying that he hates his job* Bob: Well, so what if I did? A robot took my job, like it always does, and now I have nowhere to work. And it isn’t just me. Robots are going to take all of our jobs! And then they’ll kill us and take over the world! Seamus: Whoa there, Bob! Let’s take a deep breath and think about this for a minute. Not only will there not be a robo-pocalypse, they’re not going to take all the jobs, either. And I think you’re forgetting about all the ways that machines and automation dramatically improve our lives. Bob: You’re one of them, aren’t you? Bob splashes a cup of water in Seamus’s face to be sure. Seamus: Um no. But you do know that we use machines to do the difficult, dirty, dangerous, and time-consuming work that nobody actually wants to do, right? Bob: This time is different! They aren’t just machines, they’re thinking machines. Artificial intelligence! People will be out of jobs and starving in the streets. Even super smart people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have been warning us about it! We need to ban these machines! Seamus: Ban the machines? Bob: Or at least tax them to pay for everyone who will be on unemployment. Seamus: Bob, large-scale change is nothing new. 200 years ago, 83% of Americans worked on a farm. Today, it’s 1.5%. Are 81.5% of Americans unemployed now because they don’t need to work on a farm? Bob: …..no. Seamus: For the vast majority of human history, almost every single person had to work as hard as they possibly could for as long as they possibly could every single day just to barely stay ahead of starvation and Mother Nature. It took thousands of years for us to figure out even the simplest of machines because we couldn’t spare enough of our time and effort to invent them before then. Machines we never think about because they’re so common today—refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, electric ovens—would have seemed like witchcraft 200 years ago. In fact, because of automated efficiency, we have fewer people working fewer hours to achieve a level of prosperity that was unimaginable before the Industrial Revolution. *pats pockets* Where did I put those employment statistics… JenBot: *zooms in* In the United States, only half of the population is considered to be in the workforce. The average number of hours worked in a week is 34. Seamus: Technological advancement can be scary and uncomfortable because there’s always a transition period where displaced workers struggle to find their feet again, but we humans always adapt, learn new skills, and are ultimately better off for having our previous jobs done by machines. Bob: *points frantically at JenBot* That’s her! That’s the robot who stole my job! Seamus: Bob, we should want robots doing out work! After all- it’s better than the alternative! Cut to a shot of an alternate reality where humans are enslaved by robots

Common Sense Soapbox

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About this show

Short videos with a punchy, comedic tone and entertaining Socratic characters taking on trending issues and important concepts from a classical liberal perspective, written & animated by Seamus Coughlin.

March 26, 2019

Bob thinks that automation is going to leave everyone broke and unemployed. But people have been saying that throughout the entire history of human development, and yet the opposite has always been true. While automation can be disruptive, it also frees people to spend their time doing even more productive things and continually makes all of society wealthier in the process.

Let Seamus give you a shot of optimism in this week's Common Sense Soapbox!


Written by Seamus Coughlin & Jennifer Maffessanti
Animated by Seamus Coughlin
Produced by Sean W. Malone


LINKS:
https://fee.org/articles/stephen-hawkings-final-warning-why-his-worries-were-unwarranted/
https://fee.org/articles/the-robots-are-coming-dont-panic/
https://fee.org/articles/how-ai-and-looser-labor-laws-will-create-jobs/
https://fee.org/articles/technologys-creative-destruction-is-pro-worker/
https://fee.org/articles/job-automation-should-be-celebrated-not-feared/
https://fee.org/articles/automation-isnt-nearly-as-disruptive-as-you-might-think/
https://fee.org/articles/automation-will-create-more-fulfilling-work/
https://fee.org/articles/robots-are-not-your-economic-enemy/