A few book reviews on Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots, as well as Alex Garland’s film Ex Machina, stirred my interest in the robotization of human world. To be honest, my idea of robotization of the workplace had remained largely positive, until I encountered the book reviews of Rise of the Robots. For instance, if I compare the historical film recording of the factory workers working at a Ford’s automobile assembly line with the contemporary video recording of the robots welding automobiles together at a Toyota plant, I cannot help but approve the robotization of the assembly line: “Finally, humans have been freed from the mindless, repetitive work at the assembly line.” Who can deny the fact that our lives have been made easier by the inventions of machines and robots that perform the simple tasks much better than humans, such as the washing machines and vacuum-cleaning machines?
However, the human curiosity, desire, and greed for ever-more intelligent yet nevertheless human-like machines are now creating machines that can function as surgeons, writers, healthcare workers and teachers. Barbara Erhenreich in her review of Martin Ford’s work writes: “the human consequences of robotization are already upon us, and skillfully chronicled here. Although the unemployment rate has fallen to officially acceptable levels, long-term unemployment persists, and underemployment — part-time jobs when full-time jobs are needed, or jobs that do not reflect a worker’s education — is on the rise. College-educated people often flounder for years after graduation, finding temp jobs and permanent roommates. Adults of both sexes are drifting out of the work force in despair. All of this has happened by choice, though not the choice of the average citizen and worker. In the wake of the recession, Ford writes, many companies decided that ‘ever-advancing information technology’ allows them to operate successfully without rehiring the people they had laid off. And there should be no doubt that technology is advancing in the direction of full unemployment. Ford quotes the co-founder of a start-up dedicated to the automation of gourmet hamburger production: ‘Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient. It’s meant to completely obviate them.’” A few select capitalists will create and deploy machines and robots solely to replace human workforce to make the money-making ventures increasingly more low-cost and efficient, making average humans totally redundant. This is indeed an alarming scenario for our future human world. And I suspect that this scenario is not necessarily a pessimist’s fantasy.