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Authonomous Vehicles and Society

This article on RoboHub starts making an interesting point, and then completely misses the bigger picture. Yes, there is more to Autonomous cars than just the technology involved. But the impact to society isn’t just how the vehicles are used. There are 1.7 million OTR truck drivers in the US. What happens when they are all out of work? And taxi drivers? There are 233 thousand taxi and chauffeurs too.

I’ve read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut’s books. I hated them, mostly. But his theme of “what to do with useless people” is going to become a very import problem for our society in the next 20 or 30 years. Probably sooner.

This isn’t just truck and taxi drivers. As online stores like Amazon start to deliver purchases to you faster than you could get to the store to pick them up yourself, people will be out of retail jobs as well. Factories are already getting more and more automated. When Apple announce they were bringing some manufacturing back into the US, what they didn’t say was that almost all of it was going to be automated.

A massive percentage of the world’s population is comprised of people who’s sole talent is that they can follow directions. Automation will take those jobs slowly, but surely. The US has a long history of self-reliance, and limited socialized benefits. The transition to a population largely unemployed will be rough.