A few nights ago I was reading “The Informal Economy of the ‘Information University’” by Bosquet. My imagination latched onto a certain concept from this piece and I began to ponder it in greater detail. This was the idea of outsourcing labor to our own technology. Bosquet states there is a “widespread belief that information technology is driving the transformation in higher education” (56). The faculty of these universities are concerned with a the possibility of a “future created by information technology, of a fully downloadable and teacherless education” (57). Bosquet uses other examples of technology replacing labor such as actors being replaced by digital puppets, or piano players being replaced by recordings. This is the age old fear of job loss due to outsourcing or automation. Bosquet instead chose to reverse his examples by stating these fears are wrong. He says it would take and army of technicians to animate a digital puppet when the directors could easily use normal actors. In the case of displaced university faculty, they would require many qualified individuals to their stead. Even though Bosquet seems to discredit the notion of an autonomous future, it did not hinder me from dwelling on it.
The above video I found shortly after surfing youtube with the automation concept in mind. The video explores areas where research is being applied to use technology for new applications. Each of these applications being the replacement of human labor with a machine. Bosquet and the narrator of the video both are speculating on the future. If Bosquet is right, then there will always be jobs for university faculty as well as factory workers. However, if the future sways in the direction the video presents, then many individuals could share in the fear of disruption. We could sit around waiting to see who’s prediction is right, but I propose we take time to plan a contingency for these events.
First we would have to step back and look at the big picture. The concerns of a fully automated future do not belong to only faculty or factory workers. With the scope of individuals that are targets for automation as presented in the video, trying to find a new job after theirs has been replaced might not be a possibility. So how will people receive income? How will the economy thrive after so many people have been replaced by a machine?
The only possibility to sustain the economy would have to come from socializing the automated labor. The robot would produce a good. That labor would charge an amount. That income would them be passed to a larger pot to be dolled out to the citizens of the country. Robots can produce cars and plastic cups all day, but if the common citizen has no money to purchase these items then they are useless.
This concept is far from perfect, but it could be a path to explore in the event that technology does come to replace a large number of jobs. Until that happens, Bosquet’s interpretations hold steady ground in the evidence available in the present.