Software is eating the world, or at least our world

In class recently we have spent a lot of time discussing the singularity and this idea that technology will advance to the point it could overrun humanity as the dominate life form on earth. But this assumes technology develops into greater than human intellect, while its not hard to be smarter than some humans (see jackass ripoffs on YouTube, not the actual jackass people since they are all rich and thus not dumb), for a computer to be smarter than the average child that would be quite difficult and it could take a long time. I’m more worried about computers ruining my future than technology killing my grand kids after the singularity.

By ruining my future I mean ruining my future job opportunities, or the economy of my country. In this article it is pointed out that software has been harming the job market for years. Not everyone can be a doctor, lawyer or engineer thus more common jobs like secretaries, factory workers, and even house maids (Roomba!!!) are being replaced by technology. Soon the vast majority of middle to lower class jobs will be replaced by software or robots. An entire team of construction workers will be replaced by one guy who can run multiple machines on a computer who will then be replaced by a piece of smart software that can manage the machines for him. Bars will be filled with alcoholic drink machines instead of bartenders. Software could replace all repetitive or “easier” jobs long before it goes terminator on the human race.

If every thing goes to plan in my life and in the lives of most of the people in this course who will read this, we wont be construction workers or bartenders. We all will hopefully be the ones creating this software. But the problems it could cause others raises a very difficult question: should we look to replace jobs and tasks with software?

Creating this software would probably make this individual very rich, but it would also cost hundreds or even tens of thousands of jobs. Under any utilitarian view, the unhappiness of hundreds or thousands of unemployed people would outweigh the couple dozen programmers. But even if you evaluated it from a greedy standpoint, if thousands lose jobs the economy suffers. If the economy suffers then it would effect everyone including the now rich programmer. There is a different level of loss for the programmer compared to the now unemployed construction worker but no one truly wins.

Others would argue that it would cause people to become better educated so they don’t need construction jobs and can be engineers, doctors, or businessmen  There can only be so many people doing certain jobs and still be successful. There is a supply and demand effect in the job market too.

So what does everyone think? do we create smart software that could replace workers like bartenders or construction workers? Or is it better to restrict the creation of software to save jobs and not replace people?

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