Automation is set to replace a large portion of the American workforce. What do we do once it happens?
In his 1984 essay Is it O.K. to be a Luddite?, Thomas Pynchon predicted that "the next great challenge to watch out for will come when the curves of research and development in artificial intelligence, molecular biology and robotics all converge." Nearly 35 years later, that convergence is upon us. Barring some sort of federally enforced halt on technological progress, automation of most basic services is inevitable.
And is this a good thing?
Test runs of self-driving cars conducted by both Uber and Tesla have recently caused some of the first fatalities associated with automated vehicles. The companies' respective responses to these tragedies were apologetic but came off somewhat cynical, as if human life were just an associated cost of progress. Still, many believe that self-driving cars can make the road a safer place, and frankly, they may have a point. 40,000 people died on the road in 2017, and human error was a factor in about 90% of these collisions. Currently, the technology just isn't there, but considering the amount of money being pumped into the idea, it's only a matter of time before self-driving vehicles take over the road. As we inch closer to the technocratic dream of super highways filled with robot cars, it's important to remember that disruptive technology–that necessarily obsolesces certain industries–has a very real impact on society.