I think the author is simply suggesting that we’re moving into a moment in technology where it will be faster, easier and cheaper to have the machines do that work. Where business owners would be insane to pay an less productive employee every week when she could by a robot once, and let it work for the foreseeable future.
I do not doubt this is the direction we are headed, and it is the same direction that humans have always headed: to make work easier so that we can either work less, or do other valuable things.
In that scenario, when virtually the entirety of manufacturing, and much of the number crunching, ordering, accounts payable and receivable, etc. are all done by machines, what, exactly are you looking to those former employees to do?
Here is where you start to get yourself painted into a corner — you are assuming that manufacturing, number crunching, ordering, accounts payable, etc are the ONLY things we human desire (or, more aptly, the we humans desire the results from). I want an ice cold beer to instantly appear in my hand whenever I simply think of it… until that day comes, there will be plenty of ‘work’ to do. We do not, today, know what the desires of folks will be tomorrow, especially when a lot of what is desired today will be able to be produced automatically… BUT, I do know that we WILL be desiring things and services that will be not provided through AI and automation. These are the things which we will perform for each other to earn our livings in order to purchase these same things.
The obvious solution is entrepreneurship, but as the author states, you need money to start a business. Where does that money come from when a machine operator is no longer needed to operate the machine?
entrepreneurship is not the same as ‘starting a business’ — it is a state of mind, being able to discern the wants/needs/desires of others and find a solution which will be valuable enough to these other folks that the entrepreneur can profit from providing the service. Money is not necessary, depending on the process involved, just as it has always been. Some things take capital, some things just are a different perspective and rearrangement of existing products and services to better fit the market desires. You have painted yourself into a corner where machines are doing all of the ‘labor’ (simply impossible), and the only option for people to earn a living is if they have existing capital — it just cannot come about.
Even if ‘somehow’ machines could provide us with everything we possibly could desire, then there are still things that are ‘intrinsic’ to human labor: a human painted canvas, a human provided massage, a human crafted item… just by having a human involved in the process makes the result a ‘different’ product (at least in the eyes of other humans, we seem to value the human ‘touch’). So even if the ONLY thing that people desire that machines cannot do for ‘free’ is human massage… then the resulting economy will be one in which there will be 1,000+ different types and varieties of massage, given by everyone through differing methods and accents, ranging from lower cost basic massages to much higher cost ‘boutique’ massages. AND, the cost to purchase/obtain ALL of everything else will be miniscule compared to the value we place on ‘human massage labor’, so small that perhaps providing one massage to another person in a month will earn enough to live well for that month! It is a hard concept to grasp, but the value of our incomes and purchases are relative to each other, as well as relative to all other things desired. The market adjusts to these fluctuating relative values automatically and as more things are accomplished automatically for free, the prices and values of all things will re-adjust. It is both simple and amazing… and our current and future technological progress or speed does nothing to hinder this process from incorporating each days’ new reality into something beneficial to virtually all involved in the economy.
There IS a problem that will be exacerbated by speedy tech improvements: the frictional unemployment which will tend to increase due to the shorter spans of employment. The more successful folks will be the ones who do not pigeon hole their entire skillset into one or two fields, who are continually educating themselves in some manner to be more prepared for the eventual shift (decrease) in the value of their current labor. Governmental school systems and unemployment insurance and the whole slew of social ‘safety net’ programs will cause problems and pain for all of us. These things were built without the understanding of how the economy of the future (today) will reward dynamic and ever-changing labor skills. As time passes, fewer and fewer folks will be able to do one ‘job’ for their entire life, or even for 20 years. To most effectively reap the benefits of the autonomous world being built, folks will need to think differently, prepare for periods of unemployment, and be more aware of trends and desires in their fellow humans.
sorry for the long rant, it is hard for me to succinctly explain in just a few words…