Automation

I was standing near the driver in my bus yesterday, waiting for the light to change so I could get off. When the light turned green, but the car in front of us didn’t move, the driver beeped his horn. I said, “People need to get off their phones,” which earned a laugh from the driver. Then he added something I hadn’t recognized about the situation: “Uber drivers are the worst. I thought taxi drivers were bad . . .” I almost quipped something about how automation will soon take care of that, but then thought better of it. Will we lose our bus drivers too?

Today there was this piece on NPR, “As Automation Eliminates Jobs, Tech Entrepreneurs Join Basic Income Movement,” which asks,

When we talk about the economy, we spend a lot of time talking about jobs—how to create more of them and how to replace the ones being lost. But what if we’re entering an automated future where there won’t be enough jobs for the people who need them?

This is an interesting, if not entirely new question, but also something of a gut punch when I think of all the ordinary human interactions I have in a day. On the other hand, it’s possible that the Silicon Valley crowd is informed by more than a little hubris and so can’t imagine all the areas of life that cannot—or should not—be automated.