Who is controlling automation and AI [artificial intelligence], and how is it being deployed? I think it could be extraordinarily dystopian, or it could be quite utopian. Right now, it feels like that struggle over democratic control over that kind of technology is not very live—at least in the social movement circles I am in, it’s not very live. It feels like it’s in a different sphere, so I think it’s important.
Right, so, the dystopian view is, not only is there a lot of job loss, there’s that study where in the next 20 years, 40 percent of US jobs are vulnerable. Note: that’s vulnerable; that’s not a prediction. But those are the jobs that could pretty easily be replaced by AI or automation. Even if it is just a fraction of 40 percent, that is a total game-changer. Imagine 10, 15 percent job destruction. That is really dramatic. We should think about that. That’s a dystopian direction.
The utopian direction would be, “Okay, that’s actually good.” A lot of these jobs can be automated, especially the more drudgerous ones, and we actually have more time to engage in things that we enjoy. And, hopefully, livelihoods are part of what we enjoy—not only what we enjoy, but part of livelihoods is also, how do we create things that are actually more affordable? How do we have more affordable housing? How do we have more affordable education? How do we have more affordable healthcare?
Right, so that’s part of it. But then, how do we also provide for ourselves? Because we as human beings, not only are generally hardwired to work together, but we like to accomplish things. We like to have that feeling of accomplishment, and when we make something, whether it is a mental effort, or it’s a physical product, or a service, that’s very enjoyable. And if we could take the precarity out of it—like, it’s life or death. If people had, in a solidarity economy, where people’s basic needs are being met through a combination of community production, some kinds of UBI [universal basic income], some income generation, some jobs—then you could engage in that livelihood stuff as fulfilling and rewarding, as opposed to drudgery.