The fear, now backed by science, is that robots will take our jobs. And they will. Blame not the cyborgs, however, but those who laughed at the possibilities of it happening.
So, the metallic, clanging march of the cyborgs draws ever closer, but unlike the destitute battle for the continuation of the species that Hollywood has so frequently promised us, these stainless antagonists come with a smile, and will hit us at our weakest points: our wallets. Without dipping to hyperbole, we should be astronomically concerned, as they have the edge on us. They possess the attributes that we have terminated as a species. Attributes like doing our jobs with a high accuracy and the highest speed. But that’s our fault too, as the system we created chose not to herald the work of the rank-and-file.
Helpfully charting our dip into anguish: the men and women of science (who, let us remember, created the problem, Спасибо, Asimov). First it was Oxford Martin, who pressed the doomsday klaxon back in 2013, stating that almost 50% of jobs would be susceptible to the iron grip of the cyborg. Added to this are the findings of a slew of economists who measured the increase of robotic jobs, inferring that the lost jobs will remain exactly that: lost. The study equates that one robot manufacturing job results in the loss of 6.2 human jobs. In the English of the report: “we estimate large and robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages across commuting zones.”
This, for all you skim readers out there, is the take-home point:
Now the reduction of overheads and the increase of productivity without the need for a union (or toilet breaks) makes for rather pale reading. Ordinarily, I’d bang the drum of opposition, commanding all to redistribute robotic technology into the nearest body of water, painting our faces in their spilt hydraulic fluid, roaring in victory, chanting the name of impulse purchases we covet.
But it’s already too late. And it’s all our fault.
Yes, we’re limited as a species, we’re based on an obsolete model from 40,000 years ago, but the reason they’ve won is because we didn’t take them seriously. We laughed in their robotic faces, perhaps out of fear, but mostly because they were a bit naff. To whit:
Comedy, it seems, was the genesis. The stick in the port. The jibes to the motherboard. Like all things of great and horrible power, the initial incarnation is laughably crap. The atomic bomb took its first steps in a squash court, and indeed the first steps of the upcoming vocational armageddon came from similarly laughable circumstance. That of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
I give you Rosie the Robot:
Rosie represents the fundamental flaw in our thinking. Even now, watching the intro, I focused on what the 1960s promised us, but which we do not have: antigravity shoes, a spaceship that folds up into a suitcase, self-brushing teeth accoutrements. You don’t really notice Rosie, as she represents the help. She has no job but to make ours easier. She’s the comic relief, her dumpy, homespun catchphrases proceeded with a beep. Lols. After all, she’s not really a Jetson.
Even in the first episode, robots like Rosie have already taken the low-income jobs of the Jetsons’ universe. This seems a situation accepted by Jane Jetson, who needs a cleaner, thus she walks into U-Rent a Maid.
Who best represents us is the clerk at the store. The smarmy Adolf-moustachioed bag of dicks who commands Rosie to stand before her new master, before negging her, assuming that she’s not advanced enough to spell. Now, I grant you, in the actual episode, Rosie figures it out and embarrasses the clerk, but, after Rosie leaves with the Jetsons, do you really think he’d change his mind? Would he pack up his cybernetic slave trade outfit to start a grass-roots Human/Cyborg relations NGO?
Not so much, no.
The other popularised robot that chides us is notable golden windbag of the Star Wars realm, C-3PO. Like Rosie’s uptight husband, his raison d’être is servitude, but clearly on the robo-spectrum, he annoys the piss out of the ensemble through his own hubris, plot exposition and being generally useless. Not enough that Threepio will never save the galaxy, his greatest cheer in the series is being disembowelled in The Empire Strikes Back. As it went with Rosie, it goes with him: Threepio handles the mundane, but does it so poorly, we’d prefer to do it ourselves – but only whilst making sure they were watching us do it, to show that we are superior.
Back to reality: we laughed at robots because they weren’t a threat. They seemed weird, and useless. They were the spotty kid at school. But the fear comes, as it does to every bully, when that same kid is transformed over the Christmas break into a towering, angry measure of rippling hormones, eyes out for revenge. And like all the once-bullies, we placate, slapping them on the back genially, hoping that they’ve forgotten about all the times we put their heads in the toilet.
My advice to you is this: make a list of all the people who made fun of robots before they took over, to exchange their deaths for a cushy role in the new robo-society, or sharpen up on your housework skills, because a storm is coming…