Job automation — Prepare for a world where everything will be automated
An analysis on how humanity can provide governance over an automated world
Transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, administration or resource distribution. In the next 20 years, a shift will occur in which these industries will experience an extreme decline in the demand for human interventions. Self-driving transport, warehouse automation, cashier-less grocery stores or 3D printed houses will be accepted as “normal” because we are already building the technology today.
This extremely automated future should be introduced with a rather big warning: Essentially all jobs involving human labor will disappear in the 21st century. Let us try and find possible solutions by analysing the problem.
European stores such as Ikea, Carrefour or Delhaize are known for implementing self-checkouts. A self-checkout is just like an ordinary cashier but with the major difference that the customer scans the products and pays via the self-checkout without any employee helping you.
We can take the idea of replacing cashiers to the next level with Amazon Go. A grocery store from Amazon that combines different Artificial Intelligence techniques such as computer vision and machine learning. The combination gives a customer the ability to walk out of the store without having any form of checkout. Every move made by the customer is observed by sensors and cameras, but are we absolutely sure that the process does not record additional information of which the public is not aware?
In recent events, corporations such as Facebook or Google testified for US Congress and the European Union because of officials raising suspicion on alleged manipulation in their algorithms and hoovering up sensitive user data.
Don’t you think it is a bit concerning that these corporations are at the forefront of our automated future and that the first implementations are already questionable? How would we be confident that such an automated process in the next 20 years is trustworthy?
A decent amount of all manufacturing, transportation or agriculture can be automated and attempts are already being made by a handful of corporations. Automation would make low-skilled jobs obsolete so how would the general public be of value to our economy? How will corporations charge a customer if the majority has no possible income?
Some might see a process created by specific corporations as a positive contribution to our automated world but let us assume that everyone might be afraid of a process kept private.
In the previous chapter Amazon Go was highlighted as an automated process that replaces the entire cashier checkout process but what is a process?
A process in light of the article can be taken as any set of actions where digital solutions can be created to achieve a particular end. A process can have one objective or a collection of objectives.
In Amazon Go, we can find a collection of objectives. One objective or sub-process is where multiple cameras observe if a product is picked up by the customer. A second sub-process is where it notifies the warehouse when someone bought the last item of a product. A collection of sub-processes can also be labeled as a network.
A network has multiple definitions depending on its context. Our chapter will reflect on how organisations or communities interact with one another to achieve mutual objectives. The underlying structure on how the network interacts is an important choice one should consider.
The best known example here would be the traditional for-profit company that is in charge of building and improving a process or/and every sub-process.
A for-profit company needs to be cash flow-positive and besides selling a product, the corporation has the responsibility to invent new ways to satisfy the customer through continued innovation. The corporation decides which outcome is best, possibly without the verification of their consumers.
What would happen if a process can be improved by everyone and decisions would be distributed amongst all users? Giving control to everybody can also be called a DAO.
A decentralized autonomous organisation (DAO), is an organisation represented by rules encoded as a computer program that is transparent, controlled by shareholders and not influenced by a central government.
The most famous decentralized organisation is Bitcoin. A process built by a community that is self-sovereign and chooses in a decentralised democratic order what the next steps will be.
Pretty cool concept but how would a decentralized organisation give us more trust in an automated world if you do not know what is happening in the background? One way to make users trust a process is to display every single detail of the process. In other words, you want the automated process to be built as an open-source soft- and hardware process.
Open-source is a concept in which the underlying mechanisms are released under a license in which the copyright holder grants users the rights to study, change, and distribute to anyone and for any purpose.
Open-source technology provides a certain level of trust by showing you what the process looks like internally. Explaining how something works does not necessarily provide trust when processed data can be manipulated at will. The entire decentralised network is inherently flawed if we can’t ensure that the information is trustworthy.
Applying trust at the application layer would give you a decent amount of trust but how can we ensure every piece of information is the truth? This is where Blockchain comes in to play, a technology that implements trust at the data layer.
Can’t watch the video? In short, a blockchain offers the ability to have a shared database where information is auditable, indisputable and processed in a cheaper, more secure way.
Delegated Proof Of Stake
Let us talk about consensus, the concept that maintains the irrefutable agreement on the truth across our network.
Numerous consensus protocols exist such as Proof of work, Proof of Stake and Delegated Proof Of Stake where we will focus on. A protocol that uses real-time voting combined with a social system of reputation to achieve consensus.
In order to create an irrefutable agreement of the truth, we would need someone that validates incoming transactions, also known as a delegate. Consensus is achieved by letting participants vote on delegates so that a fixed set of validators (delegates) maintains the truth in the network.
A delegate is a type of account which has the key role of validating transactions but only the 101 accounts with the most votes weighted by stake are allowed to generate blocks. A delegate is in charge of running a node (computer program) and making sure that the connected node is running 24/7.
In order to become a delegate that can validate the network, you would need sufficient voting weight. There are multiple methods on how you can become an active delegate but the most important can be grouped in a few categories.
- Development. Most contributions happen by developers that create tooling for the community, help improve the project by assisting the team or build platforms that for instance assist the community in finding those tools in the ecosystem
- Education. Helping others understand on what the community is trying to achieve is an important step towards global adoption. Activities which may help educate the general public can range from organising meetups, presentations at a conference, helping people on a one-on-one basis and so much more.
- Investment. Early investors can have the ability to shape the network. Additionally large investments early on can provide you with sufficient voting weight to get such position. Note that shaping the network through sheer investment alone can only happen when the network is not mature enough and has very low value.
As with Bitcoin, and essentially every other blockchain system, a network awards block generators with a fixed amount of tokens for each block successfully generated and accepted by the system. In Lisk’s ecosystem, all active delegates that successfully participate are rewarded for securing the network.
A new type of work
A built-in incentive system such as Delegated Proof of Stake introduces a radical new way for people to perform work. Participants of the network contribute time to improve the ecosystem and can be rewarded with a delegate position or other means of appreciation.
The delegate or participant can decide in which community their contributions would be most valued and will most likely find more satisfaction in their daily efforts. If the network is large enough, contributing delegates do not need to work in traditional organisations. An active delegate can use the received block rewards as an income stream and use their daily efforts on improving the open network and its ecosystem.
The future is not set in stone on how automation will effect society. Different outcomes can be contemplated because we will implement the future.
1. Automation is already happening
Technology and automation are changing the world around us. Articles on how workers are being replaced by robotics is starting to pop up more often and a proper question one should ask is how your job will look like in the next 10 years.
Try another profession if you have a feeling that automation is closing up on your current job. A good resource to check how likely your job will be automated is https://willrobotstakemyjob.com/
3. Trust is needed
Decentralisation, blockchain and open-source are giving us unprecedented trust while centralised organisations are already implementing questionable algorithms. Advocating for more transparency and verifiability is a mandatory step for creating an automated future.
It is time to start and think about possible solutions. What might not seem as a problem today can be a disastrous problem in 20 years. Do we really want a corporation to control an entire process that is vital for our survival (food, shelter, communication, .. )?
This article is part of a series that will focus on how decentralisation will combat job automation. This article has focused on the theoretical side of the possible solutions out there. Next part will take a deep dive on the practical approaches. Stay tuned!