Many of us, perhaps non-objectively, envision a future in which AI and robotics due to their versatility and growing capabilities displace us, take over our jobs, and eventually take over our civilization and rule us all. It’s obviously the worst possible type of scenario, and clearly a far-fetched one given the fact that we as species are smart enough to know when it’s time to reduce or stop robot autonomy if things go against us. In other words, we’re smart enough not to let ourselves self-destruct.
Truth be told, AI is more complex than that. Still, it’s only fair to think of the robotics field in a more positive light. Just like well-renowned futurist Peter Diamandis does. Instead of thinking the worst about them, let’s try thinking of AI and robotics as life-saving game-changers, the ones who will eventually in the future cure most diseases, reduce congestion while providing tens of billions of dollars in economic benefits, eliminate traffic deaths to essentially zero, provide world-class customer service at every place they work and help make all of our basic needs way more affordable through demonetization.
In an article Diamandis wrote last year, he defined demonetization as the ‘the ability of technology to take a product or service that was previously expensive and make it substantially cheaper or potentially free’. In short, it means taking money out of the equation.
We’re all familiar with the subject. Just imagine all those gadgets and electronic device you have right now, like your cameras, smartphones and gaming consoles. When all of these products came out for the first time, they were overly expensive that only a few could afford them. Eventually, however, with improvements in technology and the manufacturing process, product makers were able to optimize on cost, thereby reducing prices to levels that more consumers could afford.
According to Diamandis, this is the direction that robots and AI will lead to. In particular, he mentioned seven specific areas where most people’s earnings go to and how these will be demonetized in the next 10 – 20 years.
First is transportation. And leading the way to demonetizing this category is Uber. As it is, it’s now becoming more convenient to rely on Uber to get from one location to another, instead of driving around in your own vehicle and having to deal with traffic and finding parking spots.
Once Uber launches its fleet of fully autonomous cars, the cost of its service will decline further. And if you choose to do away with your own vehicle and rely on this mode of transportation, all your auto-related costs (such as insurance, repairs, maintenance, and fuel of course) will disappear. You’ll just be left with cheaper overall transportation cost.
Second is food. As production increases through vertical farming, the cost of food has nowhere to go but down.
Diamandis notes that the cost of food “has dropped thirteenfold over the past century” and that the reduction will continue.
Third is healthcare, broken down into diagnostics, intervention/surgery, chronic/eldercare, and medicines. With AI in the picture, all aspects of healthcare will be handled better. Diagnosing medical conditions, performing surgery, and caring for the elderly and those with chronic conditions will be done by robots that can do their job faster, with more precision, and at lesser cost. Developing and manufacturing better medicines can also be done more efficiently by AIs.
There’s also the potential to have customized home kits that can produce medicines based on your personalized requirements. And then there’s gene editing where big life-changing breakthroughs are already happening. In the future, this may mean you’ll know well in advance what disease you are prone to develop, and be able to fight it off even before it starts to manifest.
Fourth is housing. Generally, it’s location that dictates the cost of your home. The closer you are to where the jobs and commercial areas are, the higher the cost of your home. However, if you have the option to work from home via a virtual office, or if you can simply take advantage of autonomous cars to drive you to and from work, then the location of your home won’t have to matter as much. Which means you can choose to live wherever you want to live, at the cost that you can comfortably afford.
Fifth is energy. Once the technology to efficiently harness solar power is mastered and scaled down to practical rates, the cost of electricity will drop and maybe eventually, you’ll only need to make a one-time investment on your own solar power system and after you’re done paying for it, you’ll have free electricity for life.
Sixth is education. search giant Google has already demonetized research and practically any kind of endeavor that has to do with seeking information. In the future, the need to go to physical schools might become obsolete as all forms of education will be done online by AI professors. And some kind of ‘equality’ will be achieved because whether you belong to the richest of the rich or the poorest of the poor, you’ll have access to the same kind of education.
Lastly, there’s entertainment. Like we mentioned earlier, the cost of entertainment devices are now as affordable as they can be, and are probably bound to be even less expensive in the future.
And there you have it. If everyone plays it right, robots might take our jobs, but they’ll be drastically reducing our cost of living in the process. Is it a fair trade off? We’ll know in about 2 decades.