I went into a Jack in the Box (fast food chain) for the first time in years today, and was surprised to find a kiosk where I could order my food and pay without any interaction with a human. This is an improvement for convenience and speed to be sure, but I wonder how long it will be until people are taken out of the equation entirely.
This is a very old fear: human jobs being replaced by machines. But every day it gets more and more real. I would not be surprised at all to see a fast food restaurant where the only staff are the cooks. Even replacing the cooks may not be far off. In a few years maybe i’ll walk into that same restaurant, press a few buttons, swipe my card, wait a few minutes and have a tray slide out with my food, hot and fresh.
But as more roles are filled by robots, what will humans do for money? What if robot janitors, robot waiters, robot taxi drivers and robot cooks all become the norm? What if robots become sophisticated enough to do other things like teach, or fight wars or play the stock market? How would any human find a job if a robot can do it cheaper?
One solution I find interesting is this: The government assigns to each citizen, at birth, a robot worker. The robot works menial jobs, and the pay it would receive is given to the person who owns it. The robot can work 24 hours a day, so can afford to be paid less–a benefit for the employer. And the person owning it has a steady source of income guaranteed without having to do anything.
Would this, though, be a return to slavery? If the robots, needing to be so sophisticated to do their jobs, awoke a kind of intelligence, would it be moral to have them work for us? Even if we were the ones to make them, and make them solely for the purpose of work, can it ever be moral to own a intelligent being?