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Cryptocurrency, Dacs and the Future Jobless Economy

I have written several articles over the last couple of years looking at the possibility that 'robots will take our jobs'. Once the preserve of technology hating Luddites and economic collapse doom-mongers, the idea that technological progress is poised radically transform the global economy, making large numbers of people redundant and drastically reducing the total number of employment opportunities in the developed world, is increasingly being discussed and taken seriously by mainstream economists and media pundits.

In this article I want to revisit the topic, but this time rather than simply considering what the chances of this scenario playing out are, I would like instead to imagine that it is a given and ask the reader to cast their mind into the future to themselves imagine what the world would be like. This article, in other words, is a flight of fantasy into a potential future, with the aim of helping the reader (and myself as I write) to re-imagine the future which we would like to create for ourselves.

What is clear is that the 'robots will take our jobs' scenario could be either the best or the worst thing that ever happened to humanity. On the one hand it holds out the promise of a truly utopian society – the kind of world we dreamt that technology would create when we were children, in which all labour is taken care of for us and all people are free to live a comfortable life of leisure; with little or no need to work in order to provide ourselves with the material things we want and need, humanity could instead dedicate itself to creative expression, intellectual inquiry or simply to living 'the good life'. But on the other hand it could also create a true dyspotia – a world in which a small lucky few who own the machines and the programs which run them become super wealthy, whilst the majority of people are left with no work and no way to support themselves beyond the meagre handouts which the state is able to provide to them. One can easily imagine this going even further, with an all-powerful state funded and controlled by the elite able to extend its levers of control deeper and deeper into the lives of its dependants – in part driven by the power of the technology and data which only it can afford to access.

In the event that one of these scenarios really does play out, I believe that cryptocurrency, and particularly the integration of cryptocurrency into other technological products to drive community ownership, community control and even the creation of 'digital autonomous companies' has a significant part to play in helping to make sure that we move closer in the direction of the utopian, rather than dystopian vision outlines above. But before I go further down this line, it is probably worth taking another quick look at the 'robots will steal our jobs' theory itself – feel free to skip this next section if you are already familiar with this idea as it is only a brief summary that I am providing here.

Why Robots Really Might Take Your Job

Of course people have been complaining about machines taking their jobs since the days of the Luddites themselves, during the early part of the industrial revolution, who set about destroying as looms and other factory machinery as possible in a desperate attempt to save their jobs from the onslaught of automation.

Throughout all of the time since then machines have indeed taken many jobs – but for every jobs that was taken at least one other job was created. Less people were required to make things, but we started making more things, and many new jobs were created to occupy people in service professions, financial services, and of course designing, making, and maintaining those machines. But just because that has always happened up to now does not mean that there is any kind of guarantee that this will keep happening in the future. In fact there is a very good reason to think that it will not. That reason is the simple fact that the number of things that human beings can do better than machines is rapidly dwindling. In the past a machine would be invented which would perform some small and very specific task much better than a person, but there were still many, many things which people wanted done and which nobody could create a machine capable of doing. New jobs were created for people, and it would be decades or centuries before that new job might come under threat from some new machine. But today that is no longer the case – we are already reaching a stage where a machine can be built to perform most tasks which a human being is capable of doing – so new jobs are increasingly likely to skip over the human operator stage and go straight to the machines. Not only that, but we are on the verge of automating large parts of our economy in the near future. Perhaps the best example of this is driverless cars, which could soon replace a large number of taxi drivers, lorry drivers, chauffeurs, and so on. With the increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence programs, even service industry jobs which require human interaction are not safe.

As technology progresses it seems that there is a good chance we will, at some point, reach a stage where there are very few things that a human being can do better than a machine – even including the design, manufacture, and maintenance of other machines. We don't know whether this will be in a few decades or a century or more, but it is likely to happen and when it does it is likely that there will be very few jobs left for human beings.

Cryptocurrency, DACs, and Public Ownership

The key difference between the dystopian vision of mass unemployment and poverty, and the utopian vision of humanity freed from labour, is ownership of the means of production. Traditionally there were two choices people could make for how society would organize this ownership of the means of production – capitalism and the free market economy or some form of socialism with a state controlled economy.

Cryptocurrency projects and digital autonomous companies help to open up a third choice. In this third way new technologies are owned by the people who use them through digital tokens which are also required as payment to use that technology.

The role of ordinary citizens in a machine economy then starts to become more clear – it would be the job of regular people to simply envision the future that they want for themselves and for humanity in general, and then to 'buy into' technologies and companies working to create that future. People would become either speculators or evangelists – much as you see today within the cryptocurrency economy – adopting the technologies and supporting the companies which they want to see succeed or which they think other people will like to use. The most successful people would be those most able to envision and support the kind of future that the majority wants to happen, or those most able to convince the majority to buy into their own vision.

Of course there are many ifs and buts in all of this, but I think it is an interesting thought to consider that the kind of technologies which are just beginning to emerge today could have the potential to ensure that we retain human participation and purpose, even for non-skilled workers, even if we create a future economy in which human labour is no longer required.

Categories: Economics | E-Currency | Cryptocurrency


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