Hicks is a professor of philosophy at Rockford University and a Senior Scholar at The Atlas Society. We here summarize eight themes from his podcast on the work impact of next-generation robotics.
Hicks notes a perennial divide between technological optimists and pessimists when new technologies arise—sewing machines, assembly lines, printing presses, and now robotics and artificial intelligence. One focuses on new powers and higher productivity while the other fears competitive pressure and job loss.
What about job loss? “All history shows that new technological developments enable a net increase in the number of jobs.” The challenge is that “in the midst of the tech revolution we’re aware of jobs being lost, but less of jobs being created.”
About the quality of jobs? Past technologies create “jobs that are more interesting and challenging to us.” Robots take over the “grunt work,” freeing us to focus on more fulfilling-human-potential work.
On the range of jobs” “Compare the range of careers open to a young person before the Industrial Revolution.” Technology has generated an open-ended increase in the types of work available.
Also, Hicks argues, technologies enable better-paying work because “technology combined with human beings makes both more productive, so more revenue is generated, and the more-skilled human captures some of that greater revenue.”
Techno-pessimists argue “This time is different, that robotics and A.I. are uniquely game-changing.” Hicks believes only the rate of change is different, that “we're going up an exponential curve in terms of rate of adoption of new tech.”
Consequently, he believes the challenge is educational: cultivating in ourselves, and especially young people an entrepreneurial mindset that sees tech as opportunities rather than a mechanical-compliance mindset that sees tech as a threat.